le defi

Les Chaises Marseillaises (c) Kristin Espinasse
This image, though it might be the set for a romantic comedy, exists in reality... in a far-off fishing village at the end of Marseilles. The grandeur of the scene has little in common with fishing, but who says there has to be a logic to everything? Read on, in today's story....

le défi (day fee)

    : the challenge


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

Did you ever notice how a proper break, or pause, from the train-train of work and "everyday" has a way of renewing hope and rekindling old dreams? This happened to me, sometime this week... when I decided, after a 12-day absence, to come back to work... and to begin a new project:

The Publish-A-Book in 21 Days Challenge!

Beginning today, I will be assembling a couple of handfuls of stories from this blog's archives, putting the episodes into manuscript form, and self-publishing a new book! Le défi, or challenge, will be to get the book on-line and available for purchase in 21 days!

Only, with over 1,500 stories, one wonders Where to begin? Should there be a theme? ...only stories about characters? ...only stories about cultural differences? Because there is no time to dawdle... I've decided to hone in on a period in 2005--picking up near where my house-published book (also a collection of blog posts) left off. This fly-by-seat story compilation will, therefore, include a season of stories--or a few dozen anecdotes. I'll be jumping into the December archives and working my way forward... choosing stories which meet one or more of a 5-points criterion:

  • Is the story simple and straightforward?
  • Does one learn about French life and/or culture?
  • Is there a hopeful, or heartening message?
  • Does the story stand on its own?
  • And, finally, because I also write these missives as a way of documenting family life (I do hope my grandchildren will enjoy them one day): Does this particular story include a family milestone? 

In the next three weeks I will be sharing with you this book publishing-process, as I work quickly to decide which stories to include, to create a simple book cover, to come up with text for the back cover and for the author-bio paragraph, to name the book, to write an acknowledgments page, to decide how to price the book, to think up marketing strategies, and to attend to any other considerations that pop up along the way. 

I hope that by my sharing this publishing process with you, via the next nine posts, you will be inspired to pursue your own personal challenge, whether that be bookmaking or bodybuilding! We all need to shake things up from time to time, and perhaps, by putting a little fire beneath our feet... we will succeed in a new défi... and so accomplish a longtime dream.

And now, for a very big favor! Would you please join me in the book-editing process? Be so kind as to lend me your eyes by reading one or both of the following stories? Please report any typos or misplaced commas or faulty punctuation. 

In reporting errors--or in commenting on this project--thank you for using only the comments box (corresponding to the post in which the story is found), so that I may keep track of your messages, which may otherwise be lost in my in-box. 

First two stories to edit:

L'Espoir ("Hope") : An introduction and a story about following one's dream to write... against all odds. Read this story and report any edits, here.

Le Dédommagement ("Compensation"): One French woman's sweet way of recompensing a local merchant... click here to read or to edit the story "Dédommagement".

...and one of the stories that did not make it into this compilation--because of its wordiness, lack of flow, and other stylistic catastrophes... is this one: Moquette ("Carpet"). I do like the theme (about a no-nonsense, style-unconscious traveler who always takes the road less traveled--or the back way into a 2-star hotel...) and hope to work on the story when there is more time!

Note: by clicking on the story links, you will see the most recent version of the story. I will be incorporating edits and suggestions as they arrive into the comments box. 


Finally, don't let this breezy approach fool you: I'm one big ball of nervous fatigue, as I send out this post and officially announce my goal! Thank you very much for your support, as always!



Comments on this post are welcome, here. 


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


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wendy jaeger

Love this photo. Such a great shot!

Amelia Kent

Hi Kristin,

I am currently living in France and looking into doing something similar. I have been writing about a lot of strange experiences and funny stories but I was wondering if you had any advice about where to get this type of thing published? I'm 20, fresh out of college with a degree in Social Work so I would really appreciate any literary advice you can offer.

Karen Whitcome (Towson, MD. USA)

Bravo!! I am happily up to the task!

And, I ditto Wendy's comment - that photo is fabulous.

Hank Sweet

Great stories both, Kristin and I didn't spot any typos.


Love this photo... it conjures up so many thoughts and fantasies about French life, which I miss. Love the idea (I think I'll join you with my own challenge... but what?). And best of luck to you on your book compilation!

Julie S. from San Diego

You are back!!! My students and I have missed you! I am very happy to read about your newest endeavor and will happily support you however I can. The photo is beautiful. Bonne chance!

Bruce T. Paddock

So glad you're back, and hope you're doing well. What a challenge you've set for yourself! After the 21 days are up and you have time to breathe again, I hope you'll fill us in on where the idea came from.

And another wonderful photo, too! Graceful beauty, delightful detail, and unanswered questions — what more could one want?

I'm off to read the stories.


Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month in the United States? It's an official challenge to write a novel in 30 days: One of the authors who wrote regularly for my magazine (before I retired) does it every year.

Kristin Espinasse

Bruce, the idea came to me along with that usual November restlessness (does this happen because we are nearing the end of the year?... and we are feeling all of that energy--that we havent yet put into realizing our dreams?). Also, the idea came with the realization that all I really want to do is write about my current obsession with my forehead wound (no, it hasnt completely closed yet...). I realized that I needed to focus--completely!--on something else... like a still-burning dream... of publishing!

Passante, I had not realized about it being National Novel-writing month! It doesnt surprise me; again, there is something in the November air that has us restless to create!

Rina Rao.

Wishing you all the very best in your endeavour.


Congratulation, Kristin! Am so happy to hear that you're going to self-publish. :) Can't wait to see the new book. If you're in need of assistance, I'd love to be part of it, as publishing assistance is my profession. Enjoy!

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

We missed you and we're glad you’re back. Bonne chance avec votre nouveau livre d’histoires.

I enjoyed the reference to your desert roots in the L’Espoir story.

You might remember from your days in Arizona that the Navajo Indians always left, or intentionally put, a mistake or error in their artwork and quilts. It was their way of showing that no one was perfect. So, a typo or two is no big deal!

À bientôt

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Kristin, another book could have stories of just your Mom and simply call it "Jewels" or "Jewels of my life".

Margy Mullins

Kristin Dear...
You seem to share more personal revelations between the lines than through the words of today's post. I hear themes of legacy, appreciation of life and let's live in the now. Fear not. Relax in your goal. I champion your efforts and will walk with you through the process. Viva creativity!

Margy, Pittsburgh PA


Welcome back! We missed you! I, too, like the photo.

Do you have enough stories from the years for a book of holiday stories? That way, your book will keep surfacing year after year for renewed sales. That's just a suggestion.


Jules Greer

My Kristi is back! I am so excited about this post that I am now propped up on my bed with a fresh cafe John has just delivered to me along with my notebook and pen. Somehow when we learn the message of sharing and giving, things start to rock and roll in our lives. Now that you are going to take the mystery out of this daunting process I feel empowered, I have a road map to follow and all of your wonderful friends here in the comment box to help with the process. You have found a way to rekindle your dream and fly on the energy of mentoring all of us wannabee's. I have the same secret dream but have never been able to collect myself together with a plan. Today you have thrown out the gauntlet (sp) in your precious and humble way. What a wonderful daughter you are...I am so happy to have you BACK IN MY the fighter you are. I'm off to read your homework stories and then to think of a lot of life-changing moments in my own life to write a short story just as you do each week for us. Maybe by the end of this process I will also have a nice little book to pass on to you and Max and Jackie. God knows I have had my share of crazy experiences. I am going to steal back my first two - and only two posts that I wrote for you years ago about meeting the gypsy Josie when I was ten.

Oh Kristi, you are a life-saver....I have missed you so much over the past 2 months while you have suffered with your surgery. I can not tell you enough how worried I was that this would somehow scar you deeper than just on the outside of your forehead...Thank God you have fought your way out throwing in the towel of life with this first major battle in your life. Not to say you haven't had battles before with your life, but this was one that taught you different strengths that you had no idea that you possessed. I am so proud of you my sweet Kristi.

I love you



Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Congratulations on your goal, Kristin! Someone beat me to mentioning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have so many writing friends pushing so hard on their challenges this month it's spurred me on. Since I recently had my own neck surgery that makes it a little difficult to sit for marathon writing sessions right now, I'm not taking up these ambitious challenges. However, if I can't write a book in a month, I can at least prepare one piece for submission and work on research goals for my writing.

All that said, I will take up your personal challenge to offer editorial comments. However, that won't be happening at this moment because I have to go meet my own writing goal for this morning. I'll be back later to take a trip down your memory lane and offer comments. Bonne chance, Kristin! I love your spirit that wants to look outward instead of at only what you're seeing in the mirror.

Dawn Bouchard

Bon courage, Kristin! You always inspire me with your transparent and humorous look at life's adventures and 'mis'adventures :) I'll look forward to reading your new book, now and when it's complete.

Lisa Fry

Kristi- This is so very exciting! When I find myself in a time of challenge, whether self imposed or be it something out of my control, I not only learn about myself and the strength that lies inside, but I find myself amazed by the outpouring of those around me. Strangers, neighbors, friends and family offer of themselves in selfless, numerous and various ways. My heart and soul awakens to embrace each and every act of kindness and offer of love and support. Know that you have touched my life in ways unknown to you and I am certain countless others just by being Kristi and sharing yourself, life experiences and family with your devoted readers. What I am trying to say is, (in a long winded way) when you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure during the next 21 days, close your eyes, breathe and feel the thousands of readers embracing you with love and support. However this turns out, it will be excellent, because it is from your heart and that is special!

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

YEAH another book. I cannot wait for your wonderful stories all in one place.

I too have missed you and FWAD.


BRAVO et Bonne Chance, chere K!!!!! xo patti

Kip Ingham

What a nice comment from your mom...we are indeed very proud of you. There is nothing like a vacation to get you revitalized. I don't think any of us can help you with your writing...we love your subjects, your thoughts, and your style. Your surgery trauma is you can relax and be creative and entertaining again.

Love Always,

Candy in CO

Dearest Kristin, it is so good to have you back! I don't find as much time to spend on the computer now that my mom is living with me. But I always look for your FWAD even if I don't always respond. I'm excited for you and your newest endeavor. I hope at some point you'll have a chance to take a look at my recently published book on Paris and Nice. I'll attach the website to this. Hugs to you and bonne chance, mon amie! And welcome back - you, too, JULES!

Robin Katsaros

I am so proud of you Kristin! I KNOW you can do it, I believe in you -- we ALL do. And everytime I read something sweet Jewels writes to you, her words tug at my heart and say just the right thing at the most opportune moment. You have wings and angels lifting you up . . . you are flying and on your way!

Miss you, xx rk

Cynthia Lewis glad to see FWAD in my email today! I have missed your unique way of writing and expression. Bon courage with your new book. There is probably no translation for:" not to worry, you will do a bang-up job".


Quite a goal, Kristi, but I know you are up to the challenge. We all look forward to your masterpiece at the end of these 3 short weeks!

Max Roberts

Rather than the verb "[hone] in", you want to use "[home] in" as in "homing device" or "homing pigeon" Seeking a goal.

"to hone" is to sharpen


Woo Whooo!!!! Let the fun begin!!!
You will do a great job and I'm excited to see where you go with this project!

Maria B.

What a great Idea and thank for sharing the process!
Your candor is most refreshing and inspiring!
Bon Chance!!


Hello Kristin, I just happened (?) to find this blog post in a forgotten open window of my browser: It must have been there just for you! It has some good marketing ideas. Good luck!

Paul Heffron

Hi Kristin,

I seem to like your stories about your kids.
I particularly liked the one where Max stayed home from school and ended up giving his mother a bouquet of flowers. Very sweet. Too few stories about Jackie though. Secondly I like all your dog stories. Whatever you decide I'm sure it will be good. Good luck!

Welcome back,

Lisa A., CA

Fantastic! I think it's a great idea!!
Good Luck!
Hugs& K's!

Fantastique! Je pense c'est une bonne idée!
Bonne chance!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Hi Kristi! So wonderful to have you back --- refreshed and with a mission! I’m off to meet a friend in town and look forward to taking a peek at the two stories you’ve chosen when I return. xoxo

Christine Dashper

Go Kristin! I'm sending you heaps of support for le defi. It will be emotional support not physical, as our house is curently a house of exams; my own end of year and my son's end of high school exams. So we can't step of the 'train' just now, but I have no doubt you will excel.

best wishes

Linda Cain

Why don't you ask your readers what their favorite stories are? I'm sure you will get a lot of good suggestions!

Linda C in CA


You've inspired me! I can't wait to read more about the publishing process, and then hopefully put it to work myself. I self-published a novel last year via kindle and have been itching to do it again.

Dave de Garis, from the land downunder

Bravo et bon chance Kristin!! Don't forget one of my favourites Smokey who I'd be confident to predict will get adequate exposure in this best seller.


Kristin, this couldn't have come at a better time. I too have decided to take a leap of faith (but I am no writer!) I am starting an online organization that promotes economical independence for women. You and I are on a similar path facing similar challenges. Am so happy to hear that you too, have a time crunch. You inspire me! All the best to you and Vivre all things French!!

Cathie from Vancouver, Canada

Jan Leishman

Tu me manque ! Welcome back and what a challenge. I look forward to helping with your work.
Not sure what my challenge is at the moment. My daughter leaves for Berlin on Sunday and my son returns after 2 years in Canada next Thursday. Just to get through Christmas will be enough.
Your time in 2005 - perhaps in Les Arcs? or the changes involved in moving to your current home? I do look forward to the completed book.
Take care, it's a big challenge and looming deadline you have set for yourself. Bonne chance !


Bonjour Kristen
I have recently purchased your book on Amazon and I am finding it enlightening and very interesting to read. I have also recently suscribed to your newsletter. I love your word for today. The challenge! I wish you the best of luck with your new endeavour. I am shortly to embark on my own challenge as an international house sitter. France is one of the many countries on my bucket list, and I look forward to learning more from you over the coming months. Best regards. Rosie

Fred Caswell

Once again one of my best comments would not go the usual route to you -- NEVER been so disappointed this time. Very, very sorry as you would have love it.

Took me just under one hour!!

Love to all de Fred

Fred Caswell

Just posted the above. Failures may have to do with the time of day as my last lost posting effort was quite late last night.

Marti Schmidt

Bonne chance Kristen!
Welcome back, missed you!!

This Sounds like worthy task, a win-win for everyone!! great energy to heal the wound!
I accept le defi, and will begin a Childrens book for my 2 year old granddaughter, Mackenzie, based on childhood bedtime stories my Dad told me. I will also create all the illustrations, not sure about the time frame for a finished book, but looking forward to the process.
For now~ I am off to read your stories.
Thanks for the inspiration!
all the best
Marti Schmidt

Jules Greer

H Fred,

I am so tuned into your pain of loosing a heartfelt post to Kristi that you worked so hard on late last night. This has happened to me before and I have been devastated because I felt at the moment of writing my post to Kristi such joy in the communication - and then to have it disappear into cyber-space completely felt like I had been assaulted and robbed. I was always amazed at the amount of emotion the loss of a post to FWAD could cause me. Now I know there are others out there (you) who has suffered like me. I have lost some of my best posts to Kristi's comment box - where I have had breakthroughs on telling her how to solve a problem, how much I loved her, or whatever advice I felt she needed at the time....just poured my heart out and then pushed that damn button and the whole thing disappeared into cyberspace.

Now I must tell you the most important part of this message...get a glass of ROUGE-BLEU and sit down and write your thoughts again. You may not know this but your thoughts here are a treasure - just as much as Kristi's stories are a light to our day. Sometimes I have been so mad that I have stopped commenting, then Kristi and I have both lost out on 'our conversation.'

I am waiting to hear your take on Kristi's latest adventure.....and whatever else your wonderful mind has been thinking lately.




jan Greene

Here you are with a new project and we your cyber friends get to accompany you encore. whatca blessing to have your words and thoughts illuminate our days, our lives. It seems that there is a devoted following infusing hope and encouragement. Trust your many gifts. The evidence is right before you! Best of luck in these next steps, we are with you totally!

Jules Greer

Hi Marti,

I don't think we have met before - in fact, I know we haven't because after visiting your site I know I would never forget you. I love your art work - you have inspired me this morning to return to my easel.



Jennifer in OR

Kristin, ah, I LOVE your défi! I'm inspired to do...something! But what? I'll let you know when I figure it out, but I have been feeling that November thing you're talking about, and it's nearly driving me insane!!

Looking forward to your book. Your thoughts are precious and uplifting, and this is a valuable use of your time! love Jen


Hm, could "C'est le défi" = "There's the rub"? If so, I may have a new favorite "Frenchism."

Marianne Rankin

Kristin, I applaud your ambition, and will be glad to proof and comment on the stories each time.

I think your criteria are good ones. To them I would add possibly showing the "evolution" of your family over time, especially the change to being wine-growers.

Personally, I think the greatest emphasis should be on the French culture and language. As interesting as many of the other stories are, they maybe aren't as distinctive. You can include some more "general ones" (and re dog stories, the lost-and-found one would be appropirate), but what first attracted me to your blog and "Words in a French life" was the FRENCH aspect. We all have grown to value you, your family, and everything about you for yourselves, French or not, but I think the French angle is a selling point. There must be something to attract readers beyond being simply somewhat random stories.

I recommend a collection similar to the one you produced (and I bought) in summer 2009 - vocabulary, often an aspect of French life, vignettes about your family, and some photos (including the excellent one in today's post). It has good re-readability.

There is something to be said for setting a goal and charging ahead, but I'm not convinced that cramming it all into 21 days is a good idea. Rushing almost always compromises qualitiy. True, you will have readers helping you, but it's a tall order regardless. I think taking longer (maybe 50 days?) would be better.

Best of luck, and we will look forward to hear how things are progressing.

Belle Merwitzer

I am inspired by your writing and want to cheer you on, help in whatever way I can, and challenge myself.
Count me in!


ALl the best Kristin with facing yet another challenge....this one chosen.
You are an inspiration.

Carolyn  Dahm

Hi Kristin,

Thanks for the beautiful picture. I wish I could transport myself to that spot right now!

Best of luck with your book publishing goal. I'll be thinking of you throughout the coming weeks as I prepare to tackle my own personal goals. It always helps to have support and we support you all the way!

Hope all is going well with the grapes since the vendange. Best wishes to your family!


Kristin, like you I am a writer; I write for a few regional magazines around the country. And, like most writers, I am kicking around the idea of a novel -- actually an autobiographical/biographical/historical novella. And, like you, I am planning on self-publishing at an online e-book website. (Mine is still in the research stage.) I look forward to following your journey toward our shared goal.

As always, I want you to know how much I enjoy your stories of life with your husband and children in your beautiful winery in Provence.

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