October 2007


Despite having an active literary scene in Paris, I think the other writers here are the one thing that have disappointed me most in this new city.

At home I was part of a freelance writing group. We held monthly workshops, focusing on how to find work, get published, write query letters, discover new sources, manage our time, etc.

Although I was new to freelancing, the group was quick to help me find work and meet editors. They used their connections to introduce me to several magazines in the region and start getting published from day one.

Had it not been for that group I would have been working as a bartender or waitress somewhere. Instead I was making money as a writer and enjoying it for the first time in years.

When I arrived in Paris I hoped to find the same kind of camaraderie among writers. I hoped to find a group that would help me find work here as well.

Instead, what I found were writers who are much more abstract about working as writers.

They’re the writers everyone assumes I am when I say I do freelance for a living.

They go to writing groups to talk about themselves and all their grand plans. Not to find out how to improve their writing or make it worth reading.

They’re all working on a novel, a collection of essays, a book of poems.

They’re writers.

And they all look down their noses at me.

“What are you working on?” Is the resounding question I get when I go to these writing groups.

Well, I just had an article published about the biotechnology industry. Now I’m looking for some opportunities to do some travel writing.

“Oh. But what are you working on?”

Right.

Apparently I’m not REALLY a writer.

Because my work will actually be seen by other human beings.

Because I’m actually getting paid for what I write.

Because I’m not adding another novel to the pile of chick lit in bookstores.

Because I don’t have an 80,000 word diatribe about the state of the world today and how it’s all America’s fault.

The writing community may be very active here, but unless you can look at all other writers as insignificant insects whose souls should be crushed, don’t even bother.

You have to be willing to sit above everyone and talk about how uncultured they are because they still think Paris is amazing. Because they aren’t jaded and bitter that their novel still hasn’t been published. Because they actually enjoy life.

Otherwise, you may as well just go home.

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I’m on vacation this week. That means I slept in until 2 p.m. today and then spent the balance of the day surfing the Internet, watching French cartoons and basically lazing as much as possible. It also means I can’t sleep. I’ve been browsing through blogs, chatting with Tony and stalking just about everyone I know for the past few hours, and yet here I am, still online.

The only really productive thing I managed to do today was writing my Statement of Purpose for my grad school application. I know I haven’t really ever mentioned this before, mostly because it’s a recent development that I might be going back to school.

Early last week I found out Tony and I will be leaving Europe much earlier than we’d planned. For the past year we’ve been talking about spending at least two years here, if not more. But, for a number of reasons, it now looks as though we’ll be coming back in May, only six months from now. One of the main reasons we have to move back is because Tony received one of those doomsday letters from Sac State saying he didn’t really graduate because he’s missing one of the classes required to receive his degree, meaning he has to go back to school in the fall.

Initially I was a big sobbing mess, feeling as though my grand escape had been foiled somehow. I felt as though I’d told everyone I was going to do big things and instead I’m ending up right back where I began. But after about ten minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I began working out a new plan.

I popped open my computer and began researching other possibilities. For some time I’d been thinking of returning to school to get my teaching credentials. This desire has since been compounded by me learning, in my few months here, one of the best ways to move abroad is with a student visa.

As I continued researching I found out you can’t do a study abroad option if you’re only registered in the credential program. You have to be registered as either an undergrad or a graduate student. I found a graduate program at my old alma mater that seems to fit me perfectly, so I’m applying for it. This means both Tony and I will be going back to school in the Fall if I’m accepted. While I’m working on the prerequisites for the graduate program I’ll be learning German and applying for the German study abroad program, which specializes in teacher education (one of the main focuses of my graduate program).

Although it’s a change in plans, it’s not a step back. I can now not only live abroad, but also receive my graduate degree while doing it. Hopefully it will also mean that I’ll have financial aid and scholarships so I won’t have to work three jobs as I did as an undergrad.

Now that I’ve worked out a new direction for myself, I’m really glad that life forced me to change my path. And I’m excited I’ll be home again for a bit longer. I’ve decided to think of this stay in Paris as a trial run for the big move in 2009. I’m just glad I’m not one of those people who is afraid of change. If I were, I’d probably be in a loony bin by now with all the changes I make every day. There’s something to be said for those of us with adaptable personalities.

All I have to do now is cross my fingers that I’m accepted into the program. I’ll be meeting with the advisor at Sac State on the Monday I’m back in town. I hope he has some good insight about my application before I turn it in…

I’ve been sick and a bit depressed lately, so, like a good American, I go shopping to make myself feel better. I thought I’d share a couple of my good purchases with you all. I’ll keep the not-so-good purchase to myself and give them away as gifts later.

I finally bought a plant today. It’s a pink gerbera daisy plant. I also bought a cute green pot to put it in. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it alive. If not, I’m definitely not going to be able to talk Tony into getting a westie. Best thing about this purchase (besides it brightening up my apartment and adding a bit of feng shui): It only cost 8 euros, pot included.

Next up is my fab orange juicer. My French family has fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning and I always look at it longingly. Sometimes I even make myself some orange juice at their house when they aren’t home. So I finally broke down and bought my own orange juicer and I’ve had fresh-squeezed orange juice for the past four mornings. I also purchased this item because I have a serious cold and I’m convinced that the Vitaimin C will cure me. (So far it hasn’t).

Yes, that is a gratuitous picture of a baguette. Yum.

Also, because of my cold I’ve had to seriously invest in Kleenex, again. I just have to say how glad I am that, despite my hatred for big corporations, I can find Kleenex with lotion almost anywhere in the world. Really, is there a better tissue out there? I don’t think so.

And, last but not least, I bought a clothes hanger so I can do as much laundry as I want as often as I want. This clothes hanger looks super big, but it folds down to almost nothing and can be slid behind my book shelf or in my closet. Love it, and it was only 15 euros.

Prices in France are really weird though. There are things I think will be super expensive that only end up costing a few euros, while things like towels and hangers cost an absolute fortune. I’ve needed a bath towel since I’ve moved here, but I refuse to buy one because a good-sized towel costs a minimum of 25 euros. Meanwhile, my electric orange juicer only cost 20 euros (which is why I bought it instead). I can’t wait to come home next week and steal a towel and some silverware from my old apartment.

Oh, and I have a new blog on The Nervous Breakdown. It’s about how I got pulled over by the police the other day. You should go read it.

I didn’t write about this before because I was worried she’d stumble upon it on my computer and I’d hurt her feelings, but now that she’s gone I can give you the story of the squatter.

Come on, don’t pretend you haven’t all been wondering what is going on over here.

Starting from the beginning…

Once upon a time…actually it was the first Friday of September…I met this girl at a soiree for the networking site I use here. I had had a couple of wines already and when I met her I found out she lives near the same metro station as me. For me, and my couple of wines, that meant we were instantly best friends. We made all sorts of plans to hang out and what-not, especially when she found out I had a car.

But then I never heard from her.

I even e-mailed her and asked if she wanted to get together. Remember, I was still trying to make friends at this time.

But after a couple weeks I completely forgot about her because I was watching the rugby and making other friends.

Then three weeks later I get a phone call from her in the middle of the night. Literally, it was midnight. So I didn’t answer.

When I listened to the message the next day it was her asking if I could help her move, you know, because I have a car and all.

“Fuck, why did I have to go bragging about my car?” I asked myself.

“Well, I’m not going to call her back. I don’t have time to be helping someone move anyway. I worked 45 hours this week, the weekend is MINE,” I thought.

But then she called me again.

And again.

And again.

So finally I just answered the phone. I told her I had plans and I would only be available from like 3 to 5 p.m.

“Oh, really?! Well, that’s fine. I can just pack all my stuff now and have it ready for when you can come at 3!”

Fuck.

“Um, alright. Sure. I guess that will work.”

So when I get there I find out that we’re not actually moving her stuff into a new apartment. We’re moving it into her friend’s basement because she hasn’t found a place to live yet.

Then I find out she’s staying with another friend of hers for the weekend. But her friend doesn’t have a shower.

So me, being me, says, “Well, I have an extra futon. If you want you could stay at my place for the weekend.”

Then Sunday night rolls around and she’s talking about how she can only find youth hostels for 25 euros a night. And I tell her that sucks and I don’t want her to have to spend a bunch of money. She can stay at my place for a few days while she continues looking for an apartment.

See, I’m admitting it’s my fault.

She didn’t ask to stay. I offered.

Big mistake.

A few days turned into an entire month as I slowly retreated to my bedroom, where I used my computer, read, ate, and pretty much everything else. I felt like my whole apartment was occupied and I had no space.

In addition, I only have one key to my apartment. So every day I’d have to drive it to her work on the way to my last shift of work. It was a real hassle. I felt like I couldn’t go out because if I did she wouldn’t have a way to get in.

Too bad she didn’t feel the same way.

I’d get home from work and have to stand outside in the freezing-ass Paris night in front of MY OWN apartment for half an hour while I waited for her to finish doing her laundry or grocery shopping.

But she finally found an apartment Thursday night and moved out asap. Mostly, I think this is due to the fact that I told her my boss found out she was living with me and said she had to move out. I don’t know, I just don’t have the heart to kick someone out on the street.

I did get in trouble with my boss though. Because the electricity bill doubled last month. Probably because there were two of us living here.

I’m just glad my boss didn’t make me pay for it.

Because it wasn’t like this girl was paying me rent.

Not that I pay rent, which I think is why she didn’t feel obliged to offer.

Anywho, that’s the story of my squatter. I probably left some stuff out, but you get the gyst.

Toodles.

So basically, I have two weeks off here pretty soon. And, well, I was planning on going to England to get my brit-speak on. BUT then I started thinking about how much it would really cost. You know, it’s only about 80 euros to fly there and back. But then with the cost of the youth hostel for a week, plus all the souvenirs I’d buy, and food of course…well it started to add up to more like 400 euros. SO I thought, why not just fly to the U.S.? Especially with this fab low-fare offer I saw this morning on American Airlines.

What’s that you say? Did Rebecca really just say she’s coming to America?

Oh, yes, it’s true my dear friends. And what makes this package even better? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m going to be in Sacramento at the same time as M-Doll!!!

So put your party hats on and get ready to enjoy 4 fab days with yours truly. See you all Nov. 2!!!!

Let the countdown begin!

So this weekend is choc full of stuff. I bought tickets to go to the Salon du Chocolat, which pretty much sounds like heaven on earth. It’s a big chocolate festival where all the chocolatiers in Paris come out to show what’s the newest and best in chocolate. FREE SAMPLES are what I’m looking for here. There’s also the famous chocolate fashion show, where the clothes are made out of chocolate. How the designers keep the clothes from melting is beyond me. There will also be singing and dancing and other stuff because, really, the French can’t have a festival, not even a marathon, without big singing and dancing shows. It’s a little weird and uncomfortable for me at some of the events, but in the case of the chocolate festival I don’t think it will be awkward.

Moving on…then we have the Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and England. SO exciting! I’m a bit bummed though because now what will I do? I’ve spent nearly every weekend here sitting in bars watching the rugby. I suppose I can still spend my weekends sitting in bars, but I think I’ll look a bit more like an alcoholic if I don’t have the rugby excuse…

But, and here’s the sad part, it’s going to be a pain to get to these lovely events. Why? Because, SURPRISE!, France is on strike. Maybe some of you don’t know about this, so I’ll tell you: French people love to go on strike. I’m fairly convinced that strikes are staged here as a way to get additional vacation days (even though the French already get 8 weeks paid vacation every year). So anyway, it’s all of the public transit workers who are on strike, which means no metro for me 😦 It also means way more traffic so if I take my car then I won’t be able to find parking and it may take hours to get there 😦

Oh, and what I love about the strike is that they scheduled it. They were announcing it on TV and radio for about a week before saying, “Public transit workers will be going on strike beginning Wednesday night at 8 p.m.” Um, couldn’t they have worked out some kind of agreement prior to the strike if they knew the exact time and date of the strike? I’m so confused by this. And this is also why I’m convinced it’s just a ploy to get extra days off.

Anywho, what are you guys up to this weekend???

So, the other day I was talking with my squatter (roommate) and she said something that caught me a bit off guard. She was saying how she wants to go back to the U.S. and buy a house so she can have something to invest in. And I said I probably won’t ever own a house. I think she thought I was joking at first, but then when she realized I was serious she said, “Well, you can’t go through life owning nothing but your t-shirts.”

I was a bit offended by that remark. It seemed she had passed judgement on my lifestyle and suddenly she seemed to be a bit of a parent. Maybe SHE can’t go through life owning nothing but her t-shirts, but I think I could. Maybe most people need the security of owning a home and STUFF. But I’m perfectly content to have nothing but my t-shirts weighing me down. It’s a very free feeling. To me, owning a house means bills and being tied down to one place and, worse, a job.

Maybe one day I’ll become a real grown up and think a house is what I need to be able to say I’ve made it. But right now I’m perfectly happy bathing in the freedom my t-shirts allow me.

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