choper la creve
Recipe: bacon-wrapped prunes - Pruneaux au lard fumé + the French word "serviable" and a lesson worth learning!

Help pick the new book cover! + "Get to the point!" in French?


"First French Essais" book covers by TLC Graphics
Book cover designs by TLC Graphics. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Bonne Année! Have a New Year's goal? Mine is to be more concise in my writing. I'll practice today by getting straight to the point (er... just after today's word and our sponsor's message!):

aller droit au but (ah-lay-dwat-oh-bewt)

    : to get straight to the point



Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

En écriture, comme en conversation, il faut aller droit au but.
In writing, as in conversation, one must go straight to the point.


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

Good news to start off the new year: A long-lost book project will soon see the light of day! After resurrecting an old manuscript, and dusting off the thick layer of doubt covering it, I spent last fall editing the volume.

I need your help now to choose a cover for this next collection of short stories titled "First French Essais." To guide you in picking the right cover, here's a brief description of the book:

As the title suggests, this memoir is made up of the "first" stories that appeared in this blog. And the French word "essais" in the title hints at "first attempts" at writing and at French life. This meaningful "writing/French life" combination is kicked up a notch in the subtitle, which reads: "Trying out Writing, Marriage, and France." (Not to be nonchalant about marriage! No, marriage is not something to try out! That's not at all what I mean to imply...)

As you can see I need your help! First things first: the book cover. Let's focus on that (we can work on the marriage later. (Whoops, there I go again! That's not what I meant to imply!)

*    *    *

Vote Here!
To vote on a book cover pictured at the top of this post, simply leave a message here in the comments box. There are 6 contestants--see their numbers to the bottom right of each photo. Let me know which is the most attractive! Click here to jot down your choice. Many thanks in advance!

Special thanks to the book angels over at TLC Graphics who designed this round of covers! Thanks Tamara Dever, for the covers, and thank you, Erin Stark, for creating another easy-on-the-eyes interior. I love your work! (Speaking of work, I've given you extra, Erin, as this book will be filled will full color photos and captions designed to grow the readers vocabulary even more!)


Once again, Bonne Année! May you continue to grow like this French beauty: branching out and unfurling, tickling the surface of the earth with your traveling feet.

Blossoming-cover-kdpNew to this blog? Download the ebook or paperback and learn much more than French vocabulary--get to know the heart of this foreign culture. Click here.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much 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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Linda from Paris

Hi Kristin, this is the first time I've commented but have enjoyed your blog for some months now.
I think of all the options I prefer number 1, it's nice to have the writing up on a wall! but I think having the French word "Essais" in an English title is a bit strange. I think you should try to have Italic script for Essais so you can see at a glance that it's not an English word. Otherwise number 4 is good since the word Essais stands out on its own. I think I would make the word FIRST a bit bigger though. It's nice having the 3 different pics in cover 3, but the title doesn't stand out very well. Maybe you could do a background block for the title (like no 5 but not the same typeface) that overlaps the 3 pics, so the title would stand out but you get the 3 pictures on the cover?
Bonne année!


Hi Kristin! I'd go between either, the top one on the left, or the bottom middle one! All of them are so nice its hard to choose! :)


I LOVE #2 and I think it's the most special. I'm very excited to read it once published!

Mark Hanson

I like #2 the best, followed by #3.
You won't go wrong with any of them, Kristin. Thanks for letting us vote.
Bonne chance et bonne journee!
Votre ami, Mark - London Ontario


Top middle I'd say - I like the first one but the title isn't obviously a title on first glance.

Sue Klein

Bonne Année
Number 1 is my favorite.


Je prefere #1
C'est le plus direct et le plus clair. Les autres sont un peu "busy"
Bon chance
Richard - Brighton (UK)

Jim Atkin

I vote for # 1

Marc Meketon

Hello Kristin.

My choices are 4 then 5 then 3. 1 hides your name, 3 is too busy, 6 is OK but I don't like the lower right corner of the title overlapping the hill. On both 5 and 6, I'm not crazy about the type font used for the title - I like the type font in 4 better.

Bonne année!


My choices are 2 followed by 4. Thank you for your blog,and Bonne Année

Bill Facker

I like #1 Kristin .. subtle and well balanced. Congratulations for being on the verge of releasing another book!


Either 1 or 2. They're the clearest.

Audrey Wilson

#1 or #3
Both give a flavour of rural France. Good luck with the book ! Look forward to seeing it in print.
A Very Happy & Successful New Year to you & your family

Lee McAninch



I like either #1 or #2. They seem to be more indicative of what you write about. I like the basket on the bicycle in #1 better than #2, but I like the title better in #2.



I think that either No 1 or No 2 depict the perfect image of France, although I think your name in No 1 needs to be clearer.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment and look forward to reading the book.

Happy New Year to you and your family.


#2......the blue lettering will be an eye catcher and love the photo

Fay Plauche' Butler

I vote for #1. I like the subject, colors and design.

Bonne Anne! (And many more!)

Kathleen (kate) Murray

Number 2 is my favorite, followed by #1. Best of luck,


Hello Kristin !
I prefer N°1... or N°2 but I find N°2 a little bit too "French cliché"! Mon coeur balance !

Very best wishes for an unforgettable and successful year from cyclone hit Reunion!


I prefer N° 1 and am looking forward to reading the book!
Love you, Kristin ♥


Dear Kristin, my vote goes to No. 2. Not too busy, your name has been given just the right degree of prominence in the layout, the colors are well-chosen, it is modern yet hints at tradition, it has no sheep or parchments to carry a message... Definitely Number TWO. Happy New Year!


I like number 1 or 2 best


My vote is for number 2, it goes well with the cover of "Blossoming in Provence". I do not like number one because there is a fence between you and us. 4, 5 and 5 could be Welsh!

Ann Flynn

I think that #1 is the best, simple yet catches your eye, good composition.


Hello, Congratulations on your book! I really prefer the one with the front of the bike and the flowers-top/left.

Ray Stoddard


My wife and I both like #1 the best. The writing on the building looks like the name of the business has been painted on the facade - a fun visual joke...just like real businesses paint their names right on the cement in small villages! Something about the bicycle also heightens the sense of "just beginning".

#2 is a very close second. We find the man in the photo very engaging and we like the larger image of the bicycle. But the 2nd cover loses the joke of the business name painted on the side of the building (even though the title appears on the wall). I think the difference is that in the first photo, the size / scale and the faded red color of the text appears to be right for the building, where in the second it's not the right size / scale and can't be due to amount of space available.

Looking forward to your first esais.

Bonne année, Bonne santé

Ray Stoddard

Donna Schramek

I vote for number 1! Bonne Annee!


Je prefere #1.

Joan Alderdice

Hi Kirstin. Love your blog! I like number one cover design best. It would make me stop and look.
Very best wishes with the project, Joan

Marilyn and Larry Griffith

My vote is number 2, followed by 1. They are more simple and direct in their design.

Marilyn Griffith

Karol Sinats

Definitely #2. It is so delightfully 'French'! And the composition is intriguing, it draws the eye to the title on the cracked wall which I like because of the French /English play on the words essais / essays as well as to the verb ' essayer'. Very clever!


I like #2 (love the colors), followed by #4.
Bonne année, Bonne santé!


Bonjour de l'Australie... J'aime beaucoup votre blog, bravo...
j'aime #2 et peut-etre #1 but #1 is too subtle ie title.
Good luck with it all
Bonne année, Bonne santé!


I'd go for #4.


I like #1, next choice #2 ... Beautiful & very French! Bonne Annee!


I love #3.....bonne chance!

Deborah Rothenberger

# 1

Judy Bell



I would go with 2 or 1.
Many thanks for the continuing pleasure you give us, and very best wishes to you and yours for a splendid 2014 !

Denise Southwick

Number one is the the fleurs et la bicyclette...Joyeux Nouvel An


I think selection 2 is snappy, modern, and eye-catching. The other versions with the sheep are bucolic and charming but typical. (If you have to choose one with the sheep and the romantic lettering, the fourth one is more clear and concise. The third cover looks confusing and indecisive while the first one's title or subject matter isn't obvious. The fifth and sixth choice, the title looks like a wine label and again unclear what is the subject of the book.) However, I'm sure whatever you choose will be quite appealing.
Good luck and congratulations! Enjoying all your posts and photos of French life, especially the photos. When it's cold and dreary in Holland, I can pretend I have a friend in the south of France.

Barbara Bilder

Definitely #1. #2 second. To me, the other choices look like the covers for text books.

Wendy Haynes

I love number 1 and I love your writing, thank you for sharing so much with us. Wendy from Australia x

Paul Alexander

Numéro deux!




Hi Kristin,

Been a long-time follower of your blog and life!

I like the first cover best, however a few caveats. These days, online, covers are often shown as thumbnails, so it's more and more important that the title stand out, as well as your name.

I love the title as part of the wall, and love the flowers on #1. Says France to me (I lived 11 years in Geneva, learned French during that time). If there was a way, I'd try to make the title stand out a little more, and like the idea of Essais in Italic, though it might not look as good, so unsure of that.

Good luck with it! Marilyn

I'd like to see your name larger, more like #5 or #6.

sandy price

Definately no. 2. Where else would it be!!


#1, or #2, I almost felt guilty not choosing your sheep. I look forward every day to your email. Thank you for sharing. Merci, Bonne Année!

Katharine Brown

Hi, I like #2 best, #1second best.

Matthew Lawson

Definitely #1

Brenda Chinn

My vote is for #1. There is something very French about la bicyclette in the photo. I love the book title on the wall of the building...clever.

Gene Holt

#1 is best, because it is you. I see your bike parked before the facade next to the flowers where you would put it when going into the vilage.
Your name should be wider (same font) to make it more legible.
I am not so sold on your tag line. TRYING OUT can be negative (even in your email you have had to explain that it doesn't fit with learning about marriage), and is not saying what you want to say. Play with LEARNING (ABOUT) or EXPERIENCING or (EARLY) OBSERVATIONS. - food for thought. You're the writer.


#1 is the most eye catching and appealing to me, and I agree with previous posters that your name should be more visible.
Bonne Année from drizzly Amsterdam-

Leslie M. Ficcaglia

I like 1 and 5 - 5 because your name isn't in white and I like the composition. If you choose one of the others I'd put your name in the same color as the rest of the letters.

Kathleen Kelley

Je prefere #1...Thanks for sharing with us! I am a new subscriber in the last few months, but I get so happy when I see a new e-mail in my "in" box! Bonne annee!


I or 2, others are too busy.


# 1 or # 2. Excited for your new book!


I like 1. 2 and 3! I think they look more personal and are reflective of your simple, elegant and interesting style of your blog. The remaining ones are to broad and don't fit the style of your book.


#2 stands out the most. Good luck and keep up the great work! I really enjoy reading french word a day.

Jean-Marc Espinasse

2 & 1

Patsy Lavinia

Definitely #2 is the "best seller"!! The circle of the tire, the blue bag hanging over, the blue lettering and the gentleman's blue outfit - this is what caught my eye. No brainer :)

Patti Caldwell

Congrats Kristin! Since many (if not most) books today are sold online I would go with #1or 2 as they are the only covers where all the words are legible in an icon of the cover and the pictures are easily seen. That said, I love the blue in #2, so for me, #2 it is!

Kate Hersey Dickerson

How fun - I can't wait to read the new book, having devoured your first two. I choose #3 for cover design (second choice - #1).

Bonne année!!

Kary VanAllen

#1 is my vote.

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

#2 because it is a French scene, pretty, but mostly because I can read the title at a glance. #4 is readable, but #2 has a human and contemporary dimension. It tells me I am going to talk to french people today, not academically.

Diane Motter

I love # 1


2, 3, or 4 would be great.

#1 is attractive but confusing. I find #5 jarring. #6 confusing (what IS that patch?)

2 makes it look like a book of thoughtful essays. 3 looks like a book of very wide ranging essays on life in France. 4 appears to be quite pastoral.

I think I'd stick with 2 or 3.


I vote for number one with the bike in front!

Leslie Schultz

Hi Kristin,

Congratulations on your new project! I had a strong positive reaction to #1--the others are nice but not as compelling. I agree with the early commenter who suggested italics for "Essais".

Hope the editing and publication project goes smoothly, and hope it flies off the shelves! Best, Leslie Schultz

Kathryn A. Stone

Je choisi numbre un, parce qu' il est un scene beau d'un village francais! k.a.s.


Número 1. Bonne année et bonne Santé Kristin de la part d'une de vos very faithful reader. Claudine

Jackie Layton

Number one is my favorite followed by number two.

Congrats on your new (old) book!

Diane Gravitt

The first one, number 1, gets my vote.
To me the bike and flowers portray French life in a relaxed, authentic and casual way...
A cover with number 1 would definitely catch my eye and draw me in!

Kris en Bretagne

Number 2 is quintessentially French, so my vote is for that. Also as a buyer that is the one that would catch my eye first.

Susan in NH

Just started following your blog a few months ago and was disappointed when you took a break but am so happy you are back. If I were in a bookstore looking for a book to buy I would be attracted to book cover #3. The combination of photos and colors would make me pick it up to look at it and I do plan to purchase it so can't wait for the big arrival!


I prefer#1. That cover isn't so busy.

Lauren Averill

Number 1 is my favorite. I love how the lettering of the title is on the wall of the building. Nice!

Nan Morrissette

Wow, Miss K, you found a super graphic design company.
I love number 6. It looks French. It feels French. It is very feminine, like you. And it is unusual - it will be noticed. Can't wait to see the book. Love to you and Jean-Marc.


Numero Deux -certainement!!! x


#1 is my favourite - like Lauren above I love the lettering on the side of the wall....

Pauline Steele

Hi Kristen

I also like the look of No.1. I hope the book does well.



Long-time reader, first-time commenter!

#1 is my favorite.

Congrats on progress!

Suzanne Dunaway

I vote completely for the bicycle wheel and part of the Frenchman on the right. Very simple, not too busy.
An aside: my creative writing teacher in college had a huge rubber stamp and used RED ink. When we garbled and rambled and did not get to the point creatively and simply, she whammed down the stamp on our writing---WOOLEY MUFFLE!!! And, boy, do I try not to ramble now...


Dear Kristin, I like number 4. The type is the most readable, without looking like the text might be from an earlier century, and the photo looks less like it goes with a typical travel guide than the others. All the best! Trish

Diane Pollard

Happy New Year Kristen from New Hampshire. Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it, always. I vote for # 1. I have been to France three times since 2007, and it is the one that reminds me of why I love France. The photo is simple and appealing for so many reasons.


Hello Kristin

While I like the photo of number 1, the title is clear, but the tag phrase on the other wall looks really very unappealing and as an after-thought. Your name and line below is not visible.

The best overall is NUMBER 2.
1) the blue is well themed from the panier, the man and the title
2) the tag phrase looks at home there (not an after-thought as in number 1)
3) the title stands out.
4) the picture is very simple and very evocative of a French village or French life.

While number 1 is kind of nice (grace a the writing on the wall and the flowers), ALL the information other than the title is very poorly placed or difficult to read, or the wrong spacing or the wrong colour.

Number 3 has WAY too much going on. The 3 words of the title are all in different styles and that is very distracting and not best design (same problem with number 4). The white outlined blue font on the tag phrase is out of place on that particular photo.

I find the etiquette style titles on numbers 5 and 6 to be the least appealing of all.

Generally speaking, your name and the line below look good on numbers 5 and 6 (justified). I can see why you have your name a little less wide on number 2 (so as not to interfere with the chair leg) so still number 2 gets the winning marks for clarity, design, appeal.

I would play around with the tag phrase placement on number 2. The "and France" is not equally spaced from the word "Marriage" compared to the top line of "trying out writing". It appears squashed.

Hope that helps you! :)

Bonne annee

Adrienne Kinkaid

Love love love #2 because of its French casual air, like a scene caught out of the corner of one's eye in passing. Agree with the comment that as a buyer, it's the one that would catch my interest.

Norman Brooks

Dear Kristin, I strongly prefer #1. I love the picture which brings back wonderful memories of France, and I like the way title is presented. I agree the use of the word "essai" was a bit tricky.

Normanb - California

Susan L.

I love number one! So beautiful.

John Carr

I prefer #1. That sign on the wall was obviously painted some time ago when this wonderful blog started.
Bonne année et surtout, bonne santé pour 2014.


Bonjour et bonne année 2014 - J'aime bien la photo numéro 2 :) Cordialement. Jocelyne from Sablet.


I think no 1 as I love the writing on the wall. But would have your name in a much darker colour. Bises xoxoxo

Tim Teusink

#1 is the most attractive and you could change the color of your name to stand out on the white fence.

janet b.

i prefer numbers 1 or 4. each one is SIMPLE, (like someones first essays...) showing the flavor and beauty of france. wishing you the best of luck! can't wait to see what you have chosen!


I received your book "Words in a French Life" for Christmas. Since I am enjoying it so much I have also discovered your blog and subscribed to that. I am partial to sheep so I like any of the book covers with the sheep on them.


Definitely #2. I love the postman's bicycle with his panier of mail, but can we see more of the man? He looks a bit strange cut off down the middle.
Well done and congratulations on getting the book finished.


# 2. The blue is a natural attraction to the eye, the picture is so typical of France, and your name, book title, and sub title are the easiest to read.


I like 2 best. The font for the subtitle works wells, looking more like handwriting, which fits with the idea of first attempts. The picture fits best with the photos featured in your blog.

My second option would be 1.

3 seems too busy and 4,5 and 6, seem to focus more on sheep than french life in general.


Hej Kristine,
as a graphic designer, I cannot find any of the book covers to be 100% well functioning. But from the 6 presented I would choose nr 1 or the one below, nr 4 with the lambs.
If nr 1 had a person standing by the bike, it would have been great.
If we could have seen the face of the old man on the bench in your cover nr 2, it would have stood a chance of working well.
I have been chosing magazine covers for one of Swedens largest monthly mag. for 16 years and other mag´s before that for years.
The most attractive cover is a human being. Basta.
Love/ Christine L.

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