reportage (video + interview)

la page blanche

Solitary Seat (c) Kristin Espinasse
Solitary seat in Grignon. Free subscription to French Word-A-Day via Email or RSS 

la page blanche (pazh blansh) noun, feminine

    : "the blank page"


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Le blocage de l'écrivain, (parfois appelé « syndrome de la page blanche », « angoisse de la page blanche » ou « peur de la page blanche ») désigne, chez un écrivain, la difficulté parfois rencontrée pour trouver l'inspiration et la créativité au moment d'entamer ou de continuer une œuvre.

Writer's block, (sometimes called "the syndrome of the blank page", "anxiety of the blank page" or "fear of the blank page") designates, to the writer, the occasional difficulty in finding inspiration and creativity at the beginning of writing or when continuing a work.

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

"La Page Blanche and then some"

The last of the harvesters left today. The house is empty, dusty, and cobwebbed. The fridge is full with halves. No need to cook today. Leftovers.

I am feeling as inspired as yesterday's soufflé: no longer high, dry inside. Chewy even.

To chew, chew over, chew on... I wish "ruminatory" were a word, but, no!, it's "ruminating". So be it. No need to go and get vexed. That's just the way it is: "ruminating". Laisse tomber!

And so, in the absence of le mot juste (where they won't let us have "ruminatory"!), we shall be stubborn—even"uproary"! We shall rain on today's word parade! 

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French Vocabulary

la page blanche = the blank page

laisser tomber = to leave it, leave well enough alone

le mot juste
= the exact word, precise word, just the right word 


  France 2010 (101)-1
Vineyard visits: With Amber and Doug Hopwood of Peoria, IL. 

  Gilda and Robert CamutoAnd a few months ago we had a visit from Gilda and Robert Camuto. Check out Robert's latest book, Palmento, "a beautiful and enthralling work" --Eric Asimov. 

Palmento Inspired by a deep passion for wine, an Italian heritage, and a desire for a land somewhat wilder than his home in southern France, Robert V. Camuto set out to explore Sicily’s emerging wine scene. What he discovered during more than a year of traveling the region, however, was far more than a fascinating wine frontier.  Order Palmento here.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Kristi -

What a great post. I can only imagine your feeling like yesterday's souffle. Traffic signs warning "Vendange !" that dotted the roads are packed away to be used next year. The ubiquitous blue trucks hauling grapes are parked and silent. The harvesters have moved on to another crop. There must also be a sense of the weather changing as a new season begins.

I was trying to find a word for how I am feeling now that I am back in Durham. I feel like I am in slow motion as I stare at my computer screen and my fingers are trying to figure out how to use the keyboard again. The air is cold outside and the morning light is slow to come through the pine trees. I am remembering the beauty and tranquility of the early morning pink sky in Provence that cast a pink magic over the vines and the utter silence except for the rooster announcing the beginning of the day and the sound of the donkey chiming in.

I miss that first cup of coffee as I sat watching the Provence waking up. I stopped by my favorite bakery yesterday morning seeking the taste of pasteries that only Europeans seem to be able to perfect. There were no blue, grape laden trucks to slow my progress on my way to the office. The day went on in slow motion. There were no magical villages to explore in the afternoon. Only the memories of the previous week in Provence could occupy my mind but I am thankful for those memories.

Margaret in Durham but in Provence in spriit!


Ah, the sweet silence after the party is over. It can be sad or happy, depending on the "party" - but either experience brings the next day with it's quiet. It's sort of like putting the Christmas decorations away, sad but so nice to have a clean slate to start the new year. Have a nice calm and quiet day to yourself.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Your image of leftover souffle is a poignant reminder that some things are best experienced "in the moment." Your writer's block is probably a temporary combination of having worked so hard over the past month + and all of the memories of the people, the funny and touching moments ... a "ruminatory" day may be just what you need for all of those memories to tumble into place and become the stories that you tell so well. Like Margaret, I miss being in Provence but I am also enjoying the time for reflection to conjure up the smells, sights and sounds of our week in the Haute Vaucluse.

Pat Cargill

"La page blanche" is sometimes our mind and spirit's way of saying, "Cherie, take a break" so perhaps today you can slo-mo through reconnecting with the rhythem of life apres le vendange. I so appreciate today's post because after a busy week of traveling to Denver and home at last, I feel much the same way.

Similarly, another page blanche, a big white canvas perched on the easel, is always intimidating to me and why I am having tiny little successes by using 5x7 watercolor cards/postcards. Enjoy your day, Kristin and know how appreciated you and French Word a Day are.

Pat - from a dark cloud-covered 60's SW Virginia.

p.s. Margarat in Durham - I vividly remember feeling as you are today when I returned from Aix en Provence two years ago. Will dream of going back forever!

Mike Hardcastle

The vendange is just about over, I tasted my neighbour Gaby's first pressings yesterday and the juice is good, he's expecting 11.5% for his rose. It will be good to try the vin nouveau in about 3 weeks. He only grows enough for 300/400 litres which is sufficient for him and his wife Regine, myself occasionally (bien sur) and the odd gars.

The winter seems to have come suddenly this year with cold and rain on Tuesday, but it's a little warmer (20 C) today.

Most of my writing has been academic apart from the odd magazine piece and some sailing book editing so not the same as having to produce a daily column. But for my problems with writers block this trick has been helpful. Put the computer to one side and taking a pencil and a lined A4 pad just let your thoughts flow onto the paper. It's worked for me, it's not new, I can't remember where I first read the tip, I hope it works for you.

Thanks for the blog, I enjoy it every day, pictures and text, and one day I will wend my way to you to taste, and I'm sure to buy a few bottles.

Mike Hardcastle

I forgot, my copy of Ginette Mathiot's monster (in size and comprehensiveness) book arrived yesterday. I think my factrice will expect a high price for her calendar this year, the book must weigh about 5 kilos and she has to climb steps to my door to deliver parcels.

Thanks for the recommendation the recipes are easy and tasty and when I'm eating by myself easily reducible for one serving.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut tout le monde

Kristin’s Morning:

At the crack of dawn, I woke up this morning
Did my blinking, stretching and yawning
With traces of dreams racing through my head
Mind and body still commanding: stay in bed

Birds were singing and the sun was shinning
Hey, I can’t just stay here in bed a whining
I should be facing this new day with glee
Since it’s the FWAD, I write aujourd'hui

I rack my fuzzy brain for an intriguing story to tell
But there are no ideas, no stories, nothing rings a bell
There must be some gitty-witty words of sage
But, alas today, my mind’s a blankity-blank page

À bientôt


Margaret, if Kristin experienced the “page blanche” syndrome, it looks as if you went through a “page bleue” symptoms, all showing how beautiful memories can totally absorb your mind and slow down the pace of the day you've got to face.
It sounds as if you had such a great time in France!

Your "page blanche" didn't give us a story, but turned into a picturesque report of the situation! At the moment, your mind is as flat as yesterday's “soufflé” (I do love the image!)... If “ruminatory” doesn't exist, the French verb “ruminer” is indeed “très à propos”, as it also means:
→ “tourner et retourner (un projet, une idée) dans son esprit”
= turn over and over (a project, an idea) in one's mind
This is what you've been doing with words this morning, but, somehow, they've been unruly, or they simply disappeared, unable to be turned into a “story” - well, words got cold and wet I suppose and some didn't turn up! Oh! that 'rain on today's word parade' is such a brilliant “trouvaille”!) So, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!
Soaking wet words do not turn into a story
"alors, qu'il en soit ainsi... (so, let it be)
et tant pis pour FWAD aujourd'hui!" (and never mind for today's FWAD)

We all understand those 'flat' moments after eventful days spent with lots of people and filled with responsibilities, days when reassuring noises, smiles, laughters and happy chatting invaded the background. I believe the last vendangeur's departure hit you like “un coup de gong”, followed by a dead silence. Here you are, left with the “usual”, in a little world where dust and cobwebs seemed to have taken over!

You simply need a bit of a rest to recharge your batteries... or quite simply a radical change of occupation for a couple of days. Staying at home but away from your laptop? What about the couple of chairs you rescued? They cannot stay forever where you left them outside. They need a change of scene, some love and attention to start a new life, don't they?

What about leaving the dust and cobwebs behind? Why not take your camera and escape for a couple of hours? “Cela te ferait le plus grand bien”
- (te) faire du bien = to do (you) good
- (te) faire le plus grand bien = to do (you) a world of good
The last flowers of Summer, the Autumn berries, the works of art of garden spiders at this time of the year (nothing like the messy house spider cobwebs!), the rich Autumn colours starting to emerge, the busy village markets with tempting stalls - and always “les impondérables” (events impossible to predict, totally unexpected) - ALL there to be caught by all your senses -and your sense of humour!- and by your camera.
Enough to transform the 'white page' of your spirit into something bouncy and exciting!


Merci for the chair
deeply lost in meditation,
becoming part of the vegetation...

Very interesting to see two photos with your "expected guests" who surely appreciated your smiling hospitality.
About Robert Camuto, there is so much to read (later... no time now) - and a few videos to watch!
A little click on 'Gilda' opens to a fascinating world too!
Thank you for sharing your guests with us.

Oh! Happy to say your second edition of "FWAD Summer stories 2009" (yes, the discount worked!) should arrive in the post tomorrow. Perfect last minute addition to my handluggage!

Goodbye for now.
Must go round the garden and tidy things up,
then finish my packing for Biarritz!


Even when my lovely wife has nothing to say, it is very well expressed.
Thank you for having supported 5 weeks of ectic harvest.


Love all the wordplay in today's post! One I noticed: instead of thinking of your refrigerator as filled with "halves," think of as filled with "haves"!

Gwyn Ganjeau

I think it's a grand idea to think of a 'blank page' as a 'clean slate.' There's something very intuitive about that impulse--maybe it's a subtle shift of the lens that makes one take a moment to be very deliberate about the next steps, very possibly in a slightly different direction or with a new intent. Or perhaps it's the spirit saying, "take a day to fill the well back up."

I'm a big proponent of ruminating!


I think perhaps, everyone simply needs a blank page to rest: put the feet up, enjoy the dust, the leftovers and that little space of time before life starts up with new adventures. Congratulations on the harvest.


What a wonderful story!You expressed exactly how we all feel sometimes,(especially with that great picture of Smokey,who echoes your thoughts!)and point us in the same direction we all need to go: kick back,savor the past moments,and then look forward to savoring the next ones! (which,for sure,are 'just around the corner'!)
Kristen, how was Jackie's birthday?
(Do you remember your 13th?)(My recollection is back there someplace,in a galaxy far,far away! :)
Bon journee!! --Natalia

Robert Camuto

Thank you Krisitin. That is a great photo of the three of us,recalling a great afternoon. ( I think. Jean-Marc must have taken it. Not bad!)


Newforest - Thank you for the page bleue image. I like it and it is quite fitting. Oh if I could only join Kristin in your delightful suggestions of visiting villages and markets with camera in hand how the color of the page would change. I have focused on the rosey hue of the morning sun in Provence. I was captivated by how it transformed the landscape and my state of mind. It was like all of nature was bathed in the color of Jean-Marc's rose wine - hmm, page rose.

Safe travels...

Margaret in Durham remembering the early morning sky in Provence.


I used to be a faithful reader of your blog many years ago, back when I lived in Seattle and dreamed of living in Europe again. I rediscovered your page since I started a major effort to improve my French (this time it’s for real, dammit!).

Quant à la page blanche, as a writer myself (I write comedy essays for an American magazine) I don’t really believe in it. I never have writer’s block. Granted, I may go months without writing anything that any other human being would be willing to read but I still write my 1,500 words a day (if my mother were still alive she would read my crap—the only groupie I’ve had thus far in my literary career). My advice is just plow forward through the ups and downs. Some of the most mundane things about your own life are probably fascinating to a lot of people. I wouldn’t say that about me. In fact, I’d say that the most fascinating things in my life (to me) are a huge bore to anyone but dudes on death row. That doesn’t excuse me from cranking out my daily 1,500 words.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

In the lone chair picture, I find the abandoned ironwork sign frame intriguing. What signs have hung there to attract customers? What dreams, or disappointments, took place behind that weathered door?


I love a white page...full of promise! Enjoy!

Lee Isbell

I am flying into the teeth of a ... er ... French strike, en route to Janet Hulstrand's "Writing from the Heart" workshop in Essoyes next week, with my mind une page blanche, unaware yet of what my heart will fill it with. I might adopt Pat's proposal, as in painting postcard sized watercolors, to think small bites for starters.

Jennifer in OR

Love the sweet note from "Papa." I'm smiling at "Leftbanker's" advice--crank it out, even if it's crap, haha. Eventually something will take shape.

Betty Gleason

If you want the word "ruminatory," so be it.
It's a good word! We'll just keep using it.
That's how language comes to be.
Your "la page blanche" describes my whole life this past year after the death of my mother. All the oomph has left and my brain is cobwebby. I know I will recover. It just can't be soon enough. I have been writing many new exciting things on the page, but the lines fade and the ennui continues.
Enough of that. Must get back to living life with gusto!
66 & partly cloudy, Hobe Sound, FL
(60's?!?! Hasn't been in the 60's since I can't remember when. Must get out & walk!)


Thank you for these thoughtful and caring replies! I am enjoying every word, while sipping a cup of the apple cider (vinegar!) and honey cure that Herm recommended in a previous commentaire :-)

Your words mean more than you realize and are always taken to heart (and to health!)

Amber, Peoria, IL

Je vous remerci pour notre visite! (and for posting our picture together) After reading the post about l'apiculteur, I am so thankful that we had "an appointment" to visit! As I have said before, spending time with you and Jean-Marc in your home was truly one of the highlights of our trip. I can only imagine how excited Lou was to visit. All of your words and pictures take each of us to Southern France, whether we've been there or not. It allows us all to reminisce, reflect, is truly good!

Passez une bonne journee!


Kristin, Here is something to think about..rather than a blank page which can be so intimidating! We had BIG hail stones in parts of Arizona yesterday..and up near Flagstaff they had tornadoes! Lucky for us this is an unusual event. We don't need THAT stuff. Phoenix did get some rain, so we were the lucky ones. can talk about weather, or hail, or tornadoes..or the lucky lack thereof! And HOW do you always look like a lovely, well dressed lady after a day in the vineyard..I am so impressed! Hugs, Cerelle

Sharon Auckerman

Hello Kristin, I am reading FWOTD late in the evening so I don't know if you will read this. I love the pictures on the last two posts. They set wonderful images for me. Thanks so much.


Cerelle, very strange weather (tornado + hail)! Re "la pluie" - there is nothing like the smell of the desert after rainfall. And thank you for the compliment; truth is: I work behind a desk all day and not in the vines...

Sharon, I see every message and wouldn't miss one for anything! Comments are the reward of writing this journal. I learn so much here, among these messages, which are both a resource and a place to re-source :-)

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