Life's merry-go-round. Read on, in today's letter. (Photo of le manège taken in Marseilles)

aigre-doux (ehgrh-doo)

    : bittersweet


Bonjour les amis,

I wanted to update you on the good news. Blossoming in Provence made it to #31 in the hot new releases at! 

I returned home from Marseilles, yesterday, to a flurry of excitement in the comments box (please check it out here). Mom was busy stirring up sales and announcing Blossoming's latest ranking at Amazon. Thanks, Mom! Your enthusiasm is contagious. 

These exciting bonnes nouvelles are tempered by some not-so-good news: at my doctor's appointment in Marseilles, it was confirmed that I will have to have another surgery, this time for a "spot" on my nose. I am upset, to say the least. (No need to write in or to email about this, I feel your support and I thank you for your prayers.)

Parfois on gagne, parfois on perd
Win some, lose some... I will be working on my attitude, my perspective, and my faith--trying to keep any anxieties at bay by focusing on the positive.

Blossoming in ProvenceSpeaking of the positive, for those of you who would like to offer a copy of Blossoming in Provence to someone for Christmas, it is not too late....

Here is a fun way to do so: click here and look for the "eGift this item" near the end of the page, (you will see the buble icon, as pictured here, to the left. The recipient of your gift will see a picture of the Blossoming book cover and will be prompted to select this item as their gift.

Thank you very much for your help in getting the word out about my latest book. I am grateful for and very touched by your Facebook announcements, your tweets, and your all-around enthusiasm and encouragements.

"See you" tomorrow, for a Christmas story...



Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Leaves of Grass (c) Kristin Espinasse
Looking out towards Cairanne, a nearby village


aube (ohb) noun, feminine

    : dawn, daybreak

Le jour vient après l'aube.
Day follows dawn.

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

If you were sitting here with me now, facing this blank screen, you might be tempted to do as I am doing... and let your eyes travel over to the porte-fenêtre, beyond which blackness reigns.

This is no dark metaphor. I am only looking out at the night sky, staring at the twinkle lights (are they coming from the village of Gigondas? or Sablet?) beneath the sliver of a half-moon, high in the ciel above. When I began to fill this blank page, that moon was at "noon", hanging directly over the lighted village....

The moon is now at "one o'clock"... and now "two o'clock" and I am still wavering, from this page to the window and beyond. Above the village twinkle lights, a jagged horizontal line has just come into view: I recognize part of a mountain range: Les Dentelles de Montmirail.

A light gray hue rises from the mountain as the sky above awakens in shades of blue... in muted teal, in whispers of royal, in cobalt and bird's egg hues...

Above, the moon is wandering away.... It is after all a new day.


Book Publishing Update!

For three weeks now, I have been working towards this "new day": Publication Day. As it turns out, my book, Blossoming in Provence, will not be available for purchase by midnight tonight... (so much for the bad news).

The good news is that in 21 days a book has been created! For this, I am so thankful for your support, including all the helpful edits and all the encouraging cheers that you have sent in. This book could not have come together without you!

I will be taking the next week or so off to complete this project...
...and to ease up on some of the pressure! Meantime, I wanted to share with you the final étapes or stages in this book-making process, for those of you who might like to make a book of your own.

=> Now that my stories are in manuscript form, I will be sending the Word document to a book designer-typesetter (I have chosen TLC graphics for help with my book's interior. I had thought I could do it myself... but when I began to wrestle with formatting the text and the pages, I gave up!)

=> Erin, the designer-typesetter will reformat the book. Bruce has agreed to do a final read-over, and I will be doing the same.

=> I will then upload the cover and the interior via CreateSpace—the self-publisher that I have chosen for this project. It will take CreateSpace another 5-7 days to approve the manuscript (i.e. confirm it is free of any technical glitches—I forgot to tell you about the photo-sizing fiasco I am going through at the moment...)

=> I am required to order a proof copy of the book (this will take another two or three days, express delivery to France!)

=> Once I approve the proof copy, it will take Amazon up to 48 hours to upload the product page and make the book available for sale (!!!).

The bottom line: If all goes well the paperback book will be available in a few weeks! 

For those of you who are celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving, and for everyone reading, happy rest of the month of November! I will check in with you when things are looking a little clearer around here. Meantime, wish me bonne continuation. I'm wishing you the same!




Le Coin Commentaires

 To leave a comment, click here.


French Vocabulary

la porte-fenêtre = French window
bonne continuation
= keep on truckin' (also means "all the best" or "keep up the good work!"

amicalement = best wishes 


Local birds. How I'd love to fly away with them right about now... but there are more ends to tie up with this project! Quelle idée de faire un livre dans vingt-en-un jours! What a idea to do a book in 21-days!  


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Pradel (c) Kristin Espinasse
Please stick with me on this French word journey. The current theme, "publishing", will come to a close soon... and we'll be back with more colorful episodes "in a French life"!

croire (kwahr)

    : to believe

I don't even know which day of the 21 Day Publishing Challenge today is (Day 11? Day 12?)! I think the deadline is one week from Wednesday, though I'm hoping that I've miscalculated and that the cutoff is really one week from Friday (but that couldn't be, for Friday we're having a big dinner party ...and I would have never put that much pressure on things. No, not I)!

We won't talk too much about the Behind the Scenes of this farcical speed-publishing venture, one designed, in part, to take my mind off my forehead (7 weeks since the operation and my wound is still "healing". I had to stop using the super cool silicone patch when an infection broke out... then came the mad science: the daily dousing with betadine... then switching to mercurochrome (gaahh! mercury! what was I thinking?)... finally, I got desperate and broke out the LOURDES WATER! (I found a few kitchy souvenir bottles—little plastic containers in the form of the famous Saint Bernadette.)

Yesterday, as I lay back on my pillow, a soaking wet compress on my head, I felt so much frustration and desperation. I tried to relax as the "miracle" water trickled down the sides of my head, onto the pillow. I realized I had just put my faith into a 14-year-old saint!

Along with the curative water, tears flowed. For weeks, they had been bottled up, just like the souvenir "saint" water that friends had brought me from the famous grotto. 

Then came the doubt. More than the water's medicinal effect, I began to question my own ability to tenir, or to hang in there. I didn't know whether to scream or to go on softly crying about the absurdity of my situation: in effect, I was counting on a purported apparition (of the Blessed Virgin, in the grotto) to help in the disappearance (of my bleeding wound). I felt as confused as ever.

And then I had an inspiration....

"Either you believe," I challenged myself, "or you don't believe!"

A minute passed in which I waited for I knew not what....

The make-up-your-mind-moment ended when my eyes squeezed shut as I raised my hand and tilted that bottle of holy water. There I received the downpouring of faith. 


Update: tomorrow I will see a good dermatologist. I do believe she will be able to pick up where the saint left off. In the meantime, I'm going to keep my mind constructively occupied with the editing of the following stories! So please get out your red pens now and read the following stories, letting me know whether any typos need to be fixed. Thank you, mille fois merci

Comments Box
To respond to this post, click here to leave a message in the comments box

The following stories will go into the manuscript template by tomorrow (Tuesday night)! Please send any edits today, or tomorrow morning at the latest. Thanks!

PETITE AMIE: my future husband's ex shows up at our wedding!

LOUPER: I allow my son a "ditch day"

COQUILLE: When I am old...

CONDUIRE: Learning to drive in France


Meantime, here is a sneak peek at the book covers (Big thanks designer Tamara Dever at TLC Graphics & Narrow Gate Books!) . Get ready to vote on Friday (I hope...)

7 BIP covers
Click to view a larger image. Note: the subtitle you see will not appear (nor will the subtitle I made up this weekend: Blossoming in Provence: A Tumbleweed's enlightenment among the Lavender. Mom thinks the title will stand on its own. What do you think? Let me know here, in the comments box

A special note to all editors (that might be you!): If you are helping to edit my forthcoming "memoirette", Blossoming in Provence, please click over to the Acknowledgment page, now, and enter your name in the comments box there!
Blossoming cover

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

qui rechauffe le coeur

Is it really possible to publish a book in 21 days? I'm taking heart that it is. Meantime, a certain heart is taking me.... Read today's story.

qui réchauffe le coeur (kee-ray-showf-leuh-ker)

    : heartwarming

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

The Original "Editorial Sweethearts" 

This story is dedicated to William C. Myers, or "Behind the Scenes Bill", who undertook the colossal task, some years ago, of editing—post publication—my "thrice-weekly" missives!, this, after I had worn out the previous volunteers (Hello Chris! Hi George!), "Les frères Christian," who I fear are still recuperating from the trauma. These three men taught me more than how to un-split my infinitives, they showed me that what I write counts, and that, no matter how grammar (grammatically?)-challenged I may be, my stories are worth sharing. 

I admit, je suis crévee! It feels as though I've been steamrollered over. My body craves a hot bath and my stiff neck—and all the muscles below it—are crying for a bottle of aspirin.

It is a marathon over here, in "lackadaisical" Provence, where a typical day in "The 21 Day Book Publishing Challenge" begins around six in the morning and finishes when I receive an ALL CAPS e-mail from my Book Director (my concerned mother), who suggests, "Why don't you call it a day?" I honor Mom's wish by turning off the computer in time to eat dinner.

Last night, while tossing the last pat of butter (supplies are dwindling...) into the frying pan, I became entranced by the melting beurre, which began to take on a new form. Could it be?... I wondered, as the butter settled into its new bubbly shape....

Yes! It was a heart! What's more, it was the second heart apparition of the day!

Earlier, that morning, while struggling to find an opening quote—the kind you see preceding a book's first chapter—I had had a similar encounter of the heart. This happened when I could not call to mind a meaningful citation, at which point I decided to take a shot at writing one myself....

My plan was to relate a snippet of conversation that I had recently had with a brokenhearted friend. Imagine my surprise when I looked down at the transcript of our talk... and saw that the text (which I had center-aligned) formed a well-defined heart! Now, I ask, what were the mathematical chances of that?

I am not sure why I have chosen to relate the above story for today's post—when I had set out to talk about the technical (and not the mystical!) side of publishing: specifically typesetting, including issues with text fonts (Garamond? or Georgia? or Times New Roman?), text size (10 pt? or 11pt? or dare I go higher?), and file-conversion errors, among other riveting topics!

So I hope you are not too disappointed with today's non-techie, non-literary subject matter. I am going with the moment and, I admit, hoping for another close encounter of the heart.

* * *

And now, for those of you who are helping me to edit the essays that will go into my next book, here are today's stories selections. Please help me edit them, sending any corrections to the comments box of the post in question!

P.S. Here's a special heart for Betty Gleason, who came up with the title of the book: Blossoming in Provence

Sécheresse: My eco-friendly neighbor's creative solution to the drought... Click here to read this story.

Pétillant: Waiting for my important guests, I fail to notice the special visitors who are right beneath my nose... read the story here.

Paresse: That perfect façade we sometimes try to create, read more here.

French Christmas CD 

 You'll love this French Christmas CD, click here!


  "Velo"city (c) Kristin Espinasse

Meantime, moving forward... while trying not to look back! It is time to begin putting the edited stories into manuscript form... extremely nerve-racking task,
all it takes to throw off the typesetting 
is a little errant dash! 

(photo taken in Suave, Italy, where my Chief Grape attended a wine fair, two years ago)? Speaking of The Chief, here is a message from him:


For the upcoming Holidays, our organic, award-winning Rouge-Bleu wines will regale your palates. Click here for store locations (or email Chief grape if you can't locate them).
And, for our Australian readers, we have a few cases of Rouge-Bleu wines arriving soon. Click here for the pre-order form


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

bonne lecture

Lorguesbuildings 005
A nice place to read or write... bonne lecture! Today we talk about publishing one's blog posts... in book form! Read on! 

bonne lecture (bohn-lek-toor) n.f.

    : happy reading!

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

Why on earth would anyone pay for a book that they have read for free, on-line?

Now this is a timely question! Indeed, these days publishers resist blog-to-book projects (they are relying, in part, on the blogger's readers to figure into the targeted audience—and they are betting that such readers, no matter how faithful, will not be interested in buying what they have already read). 

The Cyberwriter's Plight Continues...
Certain readers, too, seem to have a bone to pick with bloggers who have the audacity to try to repackage and to resell their work. I often check out the reader comments at Amazon, on blogs that have been made into books (or "blooks"). It is always disheartening to read such a call to arms as: "Don't waste your money! You can read all of these stories for free, on-line!" It sometimes seems as though they (the readers) were against us: the very writers whose stories they enjoy!

Why, I wonder, shouldn't a writer (or blogger if you prefer...) collect their stories and offer them via another, or non-cyber, medium: in paperback form? Are we "bloggers" some sort of second-class "writerzens" because we have first offered our work here for free? 


Here are two or three examples of why it isn't, after all, insane, to purchase a book of stories that have already appeared before the eyes of many:

1) It is a reader-writer tradition! The writers of yesteryear saw their works serialized in newspapers or journals... before the stories were collected in book form, to go on to sell as classics! Daudet's Lettres de Mon Moulin comes to mind. Though I would not begin to compare my writing to that of The Masters, I know in my heart there is a place for these classic "stories of French life" to linger, beyond cyberspace...

2) And what about comparing a story to a song?! How many songs are just that, les petites histoires! And yet we listen to the stories over and over. Songwriters would have put down their pencils eons ago, had listeners refused to "revisit" their soulful ballads. Most of us listen to a heartening song dozens of times! And then we end up buying the album.

3) Or take the example of  the television series. As I stroll down the aisle at our mega supermarket, I see that French women are clamoring to buy a multi-volume set of Desperate Housewives (this, after they bought the Beverly Hills, 90210 series, when it finally came to France, years ago and Californication, after that). It didn't seem to matter that the viewers had recently seen the episodes... they wanted a copy for their video library!

Though my book "Words in a French Life," a compilation of stories that have appeared on this blog—before being published by Simon & Schuster—received modest sales (to date, it has sold nearly 50,000 copies—not the blockbuster millions-of-copies—but nothing to shake a finger at, either), the publisher was willing to bet that a "Volume Two" would not do so well. 

Perhaps. But should this stop me from publishing more books in the series? That is the question. Minus the backing of a big publishing house with a big PR team, I'm going ahead with my dream. And I am betting that a larger audience awaits, in addition to this blog. It may take time to reach these readers, but when I do, I cannot wait to wish them "bonne lecture!" and to thank them for finding me. All this jumping up and down and frantically waving my hands may just get their attention, after all.

And, psst, psst! I'm over here! 


For those of you who are just now tuning in, today marks Day 8 of a self-imposed "Publish a Book in 21 Days" challenge. Do you think I will make it? With your help I know I will! Here, now, are the next two stories that I'll need your help editing.

LE BETON: My son's mohawk... and career choices...

CROTTE: A Frenchwoman's dirty trick


Comments Corner

I didn't mean to rant today, just wanted to share some behind-the-scenes issues that pop up in one's writing life: specifically, the frustration in encountering roadblocks to publishing one's stories. The good news is that the publishing world is changing, and there are more and more opportunities for everyone: both readers and writers. And these are exciting times! To leave a comment about this post or this writing project, click here.

August 2005 004

                           The end of another writing day... sometime in 2004

Meantime, my book director (Hi, Mom!) and I are scrambling for an author photo for the back cover. Stay with me now... for I know the proposed picture may be a tad informal (is it the toads on those pajamas pants? or the "toadally cool" quotes, below the bug-eye frogs?) This aside, I hope to sell you on this photo for three reasons: One, it is in theme with the book (in which a desert rat struggles to adapt to a foreign culture—no offence to fellow desert rats... who may or may not wear frog pj's), Two, the writer's eyes are always "looking to" and imagining the next story, and Three, this photo was taken during the period in which the stories in the book were written. My son snapped the image, after he and his sister had won the most recent match of "Tickle to Death a Marathon Writer". They always knew how to keep me grounded, literally, when my sky-high writing goals began to get carried away.

 Or do you prefer a more "brushed" image (at least my hair got brushed, in this one). The good thing about a recent photo (this is from June 2011) is that it makes for less embarrassment during book readings (readers actually recognize you!). I once did a meetup in which a reader arrived... only to ask me where I was.... my answer was to offer my hand (here I am!, nice to meet you)! The woman was a little taken aback; she seemed to be looking for someone else... maybe she was, after all... we writers are so oversensitive! During yet another meetup, I had a similar mistaken-identity moment, only in the positive sense: "oh, so you're the word-a-day blogger... I thought you were much older!" Your comments are welcome here, in the comments box.

And then there's the photo from I recently posted, here. Voilà.

Correct Your French Blunders

Correct Your French Blunders: How to Avoid 99% of the Common Mistakes Made by Learners of French. Speak and write French as if it were your native tongue! Order here.


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

maison d'édition

Les arcs 018
These days you can publish a book anywhere... even in your own home! Read on, in this blog series Publish A Book in 21 Days--and see if I can do it myself! (Photo taken in the village of Tarradeau, at a goat cheese farm)

la maison d'édition (may-zon-day-dee-syon)

    : publishing house

No help with a fancy house publisher for my next book.... But that doesn't mean we are all not having a blast editing it together! I can't thank you enough for your help, all who are reading now, in looking over today's story selections and letting me know if there are any needed changes! Meantime, why not forward today's post to someone who loves to write? Or who is interested in the book-publishing process?

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

The behind-the-scenes stories that are taking place as I rush, to speed-publish, would make a lively novella—or memoirella—of their own.

There are the nightly calls to Mexico, for one, in which I spend a lot of time keeping an enthusiastic Book Director in line.

"I think you should keep the SONGE story," Mom votes. "The writing may be awkward, but is a record of your growth as an écrivaine—is that the word, Honey?—anyway...the story marks the moment when you began to pay attention to the rhythm of words! Oh, by the way, did you see Nancy's website? You've got to watch the video!" and with that Mom is off on other tangent, talking about all of the people she has encountered in the comments boxes, those readers-editors who are helping with the speed publishing project (psst, dear Reader, I'm talking to you. Are you helping, too? I hope so!). 

"Mom, keep to the subject. There's no time for this! We need to talk about the book's title. And there's the back cover to think about... and what about book blurbs? We need to ask readers for those!" I try to channel my Book Director's energy. God knows there is plenty of it!

"Now I've been thinking about that...." Mom says, calmly, and I notice how she has downshifted her gears, lest I suspect for one moment that she can't center herself... in time to center me!

"I have your book Wish, Prune, Pray here, and I've been looking at it... What a cover! By the way, you have got to republish that book! The intro takes my breath away! Here let me read it to you..."

When my French husband shared with me an announcement for a vineyard in the Rhone Valley, a fluttering in his voice told me that this time would be different...

From behind the computer screen, where I fed my own passion—writing—I listened to a renewed enthusiasm coming from Jean-Marc. As he stood before the window of my office, I noticed a change coming over him. Where once darkeness gathered beneath his brows—the shadows of an unfulfilled dream—light now shined, this, from behind the window to his inner farmer's soul... 

"Mom! We don't have time for this!" I barked, interrupting her reading. There are only 16 days left! Now let's keep focused! Besides, we've already done an intro for this book, it's the ESPOIR story—remember? Moving on now to chapter order: I'll need to bring in all of the characters in the first five chapters. We've met Jean-Marc and the kids in the opening stories. I now need an anecdote about my mother-in-law... and a story about you, bien sûr!"

"OK," Mom answers, and I can actually hear her bed sheets ruffle as she straightens up, determined to do her best to keep her energy focused this time.

"Honey, she says, sliding again... "that Bruce—he sure knows his stuff! So glad we have HIM on board."
"I know. Did you see his website?"
"He has a website?" And with that, Mom has managed to pull us off topic once again, until we are talking about all of the interesting people we meet in the comments area, and wouldn't it be cool to publish the comments box?

"Mom," I say, "you are high and I am obsessed!" Neither of us gets our feelings hurt as I call our behavior for what it is ... just a little bit manic...; instead, we break out in laughter and shake off this latest burst of creation-frenzy.

Apart from the creative lapses, Mom is proving to be a savvy and efficient assistant. "You'll need to work on more than two stories per post if you want to have enough chapters to fill this book!" With that, she's given us all extra work (from now on there will be three stories per post to edit!).

"And, personally, I still don't think that's enough," Mom puffs, driving in her point.

The other day she sent a list of twenty stories for inclusion into this project. I was humbled to realize that she had taken hours and hours to scour the archives (this she downplayed: "But all of your faithful readers are doing the same. Don't you realize that?); she was busy looking for stories that fit into the 5-point criteria I had drawn up, on Day One of Le Défi

More than book director, Mom has been Doting Nurse and Spiritual Advisor—for if I threw myself into this whirlwind project, part of that was to take my mind off other worries. Bref, between chapter-editing and book design, I've spent a fair amount of time staring into the mirror, obsessing about the healing process. Each time I do, an old English idiom pops into my mind: "A watched pot never boils."

I think I much prefer a different, French, expression: Le temps guérit toutes les blessures.... 


Bon, we all have a lot of work to do now—so no more side-trekking. Here are three (are you reading, Mom?), yes three stories that need your attention. Would you kindly volunteer to read one (or more) of them, and to point out any typos in the corresponding comments boxes. Mille mercis!


EPUISER: Mom teaches us to sweep, during a lesson in "lightening up"

TRAINEAU: Our golden retriever "The Drag Queen"

NOYAU: My mother-in-law finds a job for her lonely neighbor


Coming next, THE BOOK COVER! Here's a preview. What do you think? I used a photo, taken in Grignan (when my aunt and uncle came to visit) -- and played around in Google's Picasa, until I found the typography I liked (does the lettering look amateur? Any suggestions? I think I need to color in my name with a different hue....) 

Le Coin Commentaires

Please share your thoughts about the stories, the project, the book cover or title, today's post, my mom, or anything that strikes your fancy, here, in the comments box.



I know: my name is a little large... you can blame the Book Director (my proud mom) for this detail! P.S. notice the subtitle, which I hope speaks about the life lessons that are learned... in the process of learning French....

In Roussillon
And here's my beautiful Book Director-Mom, here in Roussillon, where she participated with me at the local book fair.

This picture speaks volumes. In my usual author event cluelessness, I have thrown a bedcover over the table and scrambled to find as many books as I could, from my personal stock. The results were dismal, and I wanted to hide under the bedcover (literally...) as all of the professional authors set up their stands with lovely lace table cloths and books-à-gogo... Mom, do you have any comments to add, regarding this image? (Photo taken 2 or 3 years ago.)

French Christmas CD 

 You'll love this French Christmas CD, click here!



Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Mr Cat (c) Kristin Espinasse. Photo taken in the town of Villedieu. "City of God" indeed.... The lovely man allowed me to photograph him. I had never seen a cat on a leash and was intrigued with the entire scene!

One thing's sure: there will be colorful characters in my next book (check out our progress on this, Day Three!, of the Publish A Book in 21 Days Challenge... and thank you for forwarding this post to a writer—a writer being anyone whose desire it is to write, and, especially, one who follows that desire. Read on, in the following missive. :-) Tip: put your cursor over the photo for more information on the image.

rédiger (ray dih zhay)

    : to write, to compose

bien rédigé = well-written

Mas la MonaqueMas la Monaque - rent this beautifully restored 17th Century farmhouse! Click here for photos and availability.


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

An Audience of Editors

In the last 24 hours an orage has swept into our little wine-making village, and the tempête is very much in theme with the writing and the publishing going on inside: here, in a messy office, where I have not changed out of my bathrobe.

Inside the pockets of that robe, there were two pieces of stale bread (I don't even remember eating any bread), just as there were yesterday. Voilà, the glamorous, rock star life of a working writer.

A working writer! I still have to pince myself when I read those words. I am, véritablement, a working writer! I am a writer who works, and I work as a writer, and, as a writer, I have work! (Come to think of it, the previous sentence makes for an excellent self-talk exercise! I should know, as I have used one of more versions of it during this decade of self-imposed writer's boot camp....

You Are A Writer When You Believe You Are
Over the years I have visualized myself, actively or passively (at night, en rêvant), in this "writer's position". It is uncanny the degree to which belief works itself out... and into reality—down to the most minute details (the other day I realized I was wearing the plaid blazer that I had romantically imagined writers wore once upon a time.... missing were the patches at the elbows. Then again, I do not rest my elbows when I write. So, good for you, Subconscious Mind, for omitting that detail, just before materializing my real-life writer's blazer!).

And then, last week, there I was wearing the felt hat that the writer in my earlier imaginings might have worn... while stealing out onto the streets, in search of writing grist. (I would have never built up the gumption to wear such a hat; voilà for the "upside" of facial scars. (See the hat, below.)

Ask and Receive
But what I could not dream up or even imagine—what far surpassed my own hopes and aspirations—was that there would be an audience of editors there to help me, every uncertain step along the way: selfless lecteurs and lectrices willing to assist with another's dream.

I hope that in the midst of helping me, your own goals will begin or continue to crystallize.... until what was once a glimmer in your mind's eye... breaks through your brain-chamber and comes to life!


And now for an editorial update! Thank you so much for the manuscript edits that you are sending in.  The corrections and suggestions are being incorporated as I receive them—in real time—so that when you click on one of the stories to edit, you will be seeing the very latest version. (There might be a several-hour lapse at times during which I am outside screaming at the wind or hugging a tree, slaphappily. More likely, I am engaged in less dramatic stress outlets—such as making a hasty family dinner or catching up on laundry (my eyes lit up this morning, when I realized that the green shirt that I was folding was the same shirt at that in the dédommagement story that you have helped me edit over the past 36 hours! I think I'll frame that shirt and stick it in my office—or simply wear it while I speed publish these next few weeks!)

All this to say Merci bien, merci beaucoup, for the excellent feedback and suggestions and corrections that you have taken the time to send in, via the comments box. And, finally, huge thanks to MOM, aka Jules, who has accepted the position of Book Director. Her energy and enthusiasm, alone, is enough to buoy all of us during the next two weeks and four days.... Yipes, off to work against the clock, now!


Please join me, right away, anyone who is so willing: help me to find any typos or mistakes or formatting errors or stylistic concerns... in the following two three stories:

LE SAPIN: A "complicated" woman longs to become as simple as a French Christmas tree.

SONGE (DREAM!): read about when William Faulkner came to visit me, with advice about how to write with ease... 

MOQUETTE (CARPET): this story was reconsidered... after Mom and her posse showed up in the "moquette" comments box, and insisted this story be a part of the story collection.

Post note: I am beginning to see a new theme to this story collection: more than French life, there will be stories on the writing life. This has the added benefit of appealing to a larger audience (all you writers out there!) I will try to find more writing-themed stories in the archives.

Le Coin Commentaires
To leave a comment on today's post, or to simply cheer me on—me and my editorial team (that'd be you), please click here.

French Vocabulary

un orage = thunderstorm

la tempête = storm

voilà = there you have it

pincer = to pinch

véritablement = truly, genuinely

le lecteur, la lectrice = reader

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Out searching for that "grist" I mentioned, in today's story.


The "writer's hat" looks even more stylish on our son, Max (did you read about him in today's stories to edit?); but writing is the last thing in the world he wants to do. He's content to actually live life, rather than to write about it.

And here is that beautiful husband of mine, with a message for you:

For the coming Holidays, look for our Rouge-Bleu wines here. If you can't find them, email Jean-Marc and he will help you. Thanks for your support !

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

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. 


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

le sapin


Sapin (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken in Serre Chevalier, near Briançon



noun, masculine

fir tree

When Max came into the kitchen announcing, "Papa a acheté un sapin," I folded the dishtowel, set it down and took a deep breath. I knew the Christmas tree would be trunk-size—all the better to fit into the back of an economy car—and not tall, like the spruce my mom used to whisk home (space limits were not an issue... Mom had the tree tied to the top of her '68 Camaro).

"Cela suffira," I reminded myself, hoping to have finally learned a lesson. The tree, whatever it is, will be just what we need, and failing that, it will at least be real! Only, when I saw what my husband, The Nonconsumer, brought home this time, every nerve in my body became a live wire.

There in the center of the salon stood the most abominable tree that I had ever laid eyes on. I knew better than to open my mouth lest the bassesse of language, French or English, should spew forth. Meanwhile my nerves began to short-circuit, and it was only a matter of time before the sparks reached my tongue, causing it to ignite.

"How much did you pay for it?" I questioned, teeth clamped.

"Twelve euros," Jean-Marc answered, jaws relaxed.

Twelve euros! That's 15 dollars... about how much he would spend on a decent bottle of wine—one that we might share in a single night. But a Christmas tree—that's something we could have spent a little more on, for we would enjoy it for an entire month! 

After a moment of silence so thick you could hang tinsel on it, Jean-Marc challenged me: "You can take it back if you don't like it." His remark was delivered with the coolness of a peppermint candy cane.

"It is not for me to take back. YOU take it back!"

My husband's next response was to slam the door. I watched the ripple effect as the tinsel fell to the floor. 

I looked down at the artificial arbre. A Christmas tree should be at least as tall as a child, I reasoned. Staring at the sapin de Noël, I noticed its mangled branches and its missing foliage. It was a fake fir, one so cheap that it came with its own styrofoam ornaments! And was that "presto tinsel" stuck to the branches? 

I thought about the nine-foot-tall Colorado spruce that was Mom's joy to decorate. The ornaments were not automatically glued to the branches. They were handmade! One year Mom covered the tree with white colombes and pheasant plumes. She took the ordinary blue boules and dressed them up with peacock feathers (using only the fancy tops, or  what she called the "eyes" of the feathers). Her zeal for holiday decorating didn't stop at the giant tree—she had those doves "flying" from the branches to the front door!

My eyes returned to the bedroom door, which had just been slammed shut. I looked back down at the Christmas tree. The longer I stared, the uglier it appeared.

"It is the ugliest tree that I have ever seen!" I declared, and pulled off what decorations Jean-Marc and Jackie had put up. I yanked apart the tree and shoved it into the stupid bag from which it came. Still smarting, I returned to the kitchen and slammed the dirty pots and pans around in the sink, the sink without a garbage disposal! Only in France!

"You're so complicated," my Frenchman used to say as I struggled to adapt to his country, to his ways, to his small-treed holidays. Over the years, I began to suspect that he had a point. Indignation turned to industry as, little by little, I began ousting the surplus and the superflu—learning the difference between want and besoin, all the while simplifying, simplifying!

The sum of all that effort now stood before me, concrete in form, via this, the simplest tree.

"But I want a COMPLICATED Christmas treeeeeee!" I cried out, shoving the sponge back into the pan as I scoured and glowered. "I want a showy, superfluous, SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC spruce!"

Just then I heard the rustle of faux branches and a whisper....

"Il est beau!" Max was saying to his sister.

"Oui, regarde," she agreed, softly.

I listened to the clanking of aluminum bulbs.... Peeking around the corner, I witnessed the scene. Max had pulled the tree back out of the bag and reassembled it. The branches, still tordues, now had a colorful array of bulbs, some chipped, some dusty, some new—all carefully hung. There were so many decorations that the empty parts, where branches seemed to be missing, were now filled in.

Jean-Marc was on his knees searching for an electrical outlet. Finding one, he plugged in the tree lights, but when he turned to reach for the switch.... my hand was already on it. Our eyes locked.

My husband smiled as I flipped the switch. When the tree lights went on, the room came to a swift hush. In the silence she appeared: La Joie—an étincelle here, a sparkle there—happiness filling the room, its presence so real, so palpable, you could hang tinsel on it.


French Vocabulary

Papa a acheté un sapin = Papa's bought a Christmas tree
çela suffira = that'll suffice
le salon = living room
la bassesse = baseness
un arbre = tree
le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree
la colombe = dove
la plume = feather
la boule = ball
le superflu = superfluity
le besoin = need
il est beau = it is beautiful (tree)
oui, regarde = yes, look
tordu(e) = twisted, bent
la joie = joy
une étincelle = spark, sparkle


====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for searching this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting. I appreciate your efforts! Click here to submit corrections.


sentir le sapin = to have one foot in the grave
passer un sapin à quelqu'un = to dupe someone

le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree
*sapin also = coffin
*sapin is a color (vert sapin)

Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin. With a hunk of bread, one finds his paradise under a fir tree. 

Listen to French: hear Jean-Marc recite today's proverb:
Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin. Download sapin4.wav
             *   *   *

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Chairs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken at the restaurant "La Grotte" at the end of Marseilles, in Callelongue...



noun, masculine


In a menswear boutique in Draguignan, I stand at the comptoir, hesitating between the powder-blue chemise and the olive-green one. As I hem and haw, Jackie taps her foot, says either shirt will look good on Papa, and sighs for the nième time. I remind her that if she is patient, I will buy her the mood ring she has been asking for—the one all her friends are sporting at school.

Next, the little bells hanging from the shop's entrance begin to jingle as the door opens and a small woman is swept in with the wind.

"Bonjour, Messieurs Dames!" she says, shivering from the cold mistral. The little woman has a purse hanging from the fold of her left arm and she is holding a small boîte in her right hand. Her white hair falls just below her shoulders and is held back with an intricate tortoiseshell comb. She is wearing a dress, nylons, and little heels, which is more effort than a lot of women living this far north of the Côte d'Azur put into suiting up in wintertime.

"Tell Hervé it is from Madame Kakapigeon!" the woman with the box and the heels says.

I look down to the blur of blue and green shirts and mutter the name I have just overheard, not sure I have heard correctly. "Kakapigeon"? Its sound causes me to blush. Poor thing, to have to go through life with such a name!

"Tenez." Madame holds out the box, offering it to the saleswoman. "I'm off to the bank now! Je n'ai plus un radis!"

Our heads bob back and forth as my daughter and I witness the quirky exchange between the lively, gift-toting grandma and the store clerk. My eyes return to the vendeuse, who has taken the box of chocolates with its pretty cloth ribbon.

"Au revoir, mes chéries," says the woman without a radish and, with that, the door swings shut making the jingle bells do their thing.

"What did she say her name was?" I ask, indiscreetly.

The saleslady smiles. "She calls herself 'Madame Caca Pigeon' because she is always feeding the pigeons from her balcony, just above our magasin. The well-fed birds are always 'messing' out in front of the boutique. Madame is sorry for the salissure, but it doesn't stop her from feeding her feathered friends. So every year, about this time, she comes in with her box of chocolates... compliments of 'Madame Caca Pigeon'."


French Vocabulary

le comptoir = counter
la chemise = shirt
nième or énième = nth, umpteenth (time)
la vendeuse = saleslady
bonjour, Messieurs Dames = hello, everyone
une boîte = box
la Côte d'Azur = "The Blue Coast", The French Riviera
tenez (the verb is "tenir") = here, take it
au revoir, mes chéries = goodbye, my dears
le magasin = shop
la salissure = filth

===Text beyond this line will not appear in the printed book===

Le Coin Commentaires & Your Editorial Notes
Please list any errors in the English or French text, here, in the comments box.

Note: A final paragraph was removed from this story. I hope that the vignette will stand on its own without the "overworked" ending that has been deleted. If you feel this story needs a punch line, let me know in the comments box!

I may need to add my daughter's age (she was nine at the time) to this, or to another story in the opening of the book. Any other ideas? Click here to comment


French Expression:
ne pas/ne plus avoir un radis = to not/no longer have a cent (or a penny) to one's name


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.