ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via French from Italian gazzetta, originally gazeta de la novità (because the news-sheet sold for a gazeta, a Venetian coin of small value)

Friday, December 3, 2010

School Visit in Paris

What fun! Yesterday, I visited a class of fourth and fifth graders at the École 109, avenue Parmentier in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Their teacher, Fabien Pacilly-Gamboa, had prepared them for my visit, and as a result, we all had a fabulous time. Not only had every single student read Combinaison gagnante, they were prepared with questions and comments about character development, whether it was difficult to imagine a fictional story and create a plot, and why I wrote in French instead of English. Many thanks to Fabien and his lively students for a wonderful visit.

The front door to the school 
109, avenue Parmentier, Paris 11e

Questions and Answers

The CM1 / CM2 class with the visiting author

Fabien and a few of his students

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kids Euro Festival Q & A

Speaking at the Kids Euro Festival was a lot of fun. It was the first time I was presenting my book and meeting readers, so I was a tad nervous. But both the children and the parents who turned out on a gorgeous fall day to hear about Axelle and Guillaume, the heroine of Combinaison gagnante and the brother with whom she exchanges her identity in order to race, were extremely warm and enthusiastically receptive. The questions they asked were apropos as well as amusing! Kids wanted to know how long it takes to write a book (months and months with countless revisions), if I had done the illustrations (no, it was Sébastien des Déserts, someone I'll be meeting for the first time in two weeks), if being a teacher helps me write books (yes, because of all the observations I make), and if I was already writing another book (just finished it and mailed it off… last night!). They also wanted to know how a person born and raised in Louisiana is now a French writer (that's too long of a story for one blogpost). It was enjoyable to share not only the story of how Axelle and Guilluame were created, but my own as well. Thanks to all who showed up!

Here's a picture after the presentation with a young reader…

 …and later, with one of my biggest fans!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kids Euro Festival 2010

Dans le cadre du Kids Euro Festival, je présenterai mon livre "Combinaison gagnante" à la Maison Française, à l'Ambassade de France, 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC. Cette présentation se termina par une séance dédicace pendant laquelle je me ferai un plaisir de rencontrer les jeunes lecteurs et leurs familles. 
À dimanche, 17 octobre, à 15h !

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Combinaison gagnante! C'est aujourd'hui!

Mon premier livre, Combinaison gagnante, sort aujourd’hui même ! Écrit pour des enfants de 8 à 12 ans et publié par les Editions Talents Hauts, le livre fait partie de leur collection Livres et égaux. Il est illustré par Sébastien des Déserts.
Combinaison gagnante raconte l’histoire d’Axelle Blanchard, une fille de 12 ans originaire du Mans qui ne rêve que de devenir pilote de course ! Sa famille baigne dans la tradition du sport auto : son père était pilote de Formule 1, et ses deux frères s’entraînent pour perpétuer la tradition familiale. Évidemment, Axelle a envie de courir, comme tous les hommes de sa famille, malheureusement, ses parents s’y opposent : « Le sport auto, ce n’est pas pour les filles ».

Qu’à cela ne tienne. Avec Guillaume son frère qui, lui, aimerait bien être dispensé de s’entraîner pour la course, ils échangent leurs rôles jusqu'au moment où Axelle ne peut plus cacher sa vraie identité.
Que se passera-t-il quand les parents découvriront la ruse ? J’espère que votre curiosité est suffisamment piquée, et que vous lirez le livre qui est dès maintenant disponible en librairie et chez l’éditeur. Pour en savoir plus sur Axelle, sur les femmes et la Formule 1, sur comment j’en suis venue à écrire cette histoire, et sur mes projets d’écriture, visitez mon nouveau site.

Today's the day! Combinaison gagnante!

Today’s the day! My first book, Combinaison gagnante, is being released by Editions Talents Hauts. The book, written entirely in French for children ages eight to twelve, is part of their gender-equality collection Livres et égaux, and is illustrated by Sébastien des Deserts.

Combinaison gagnante is the story of Axelle Blanchard, a 12-year old girl from Le Mans who has big dreams – racing dreams. The Blanchard family is steeped in the tradition of automobile racing. Axelle’s father was a Formula 1 pilot, and her two older brothers are being groomed to take up his mantle. Naturally, Axelle wants to get into the act. Unfortunately, her parents are opposed to the idea of her getting involved in automobile sports… all because she’s a girl.
No matter. With some help from her brother Guillaume, who would rather be writing poetry than getting ready for the next race, Axelle is able to train and in an ingenious exchange of identities – Twelfth Night style – she races until she can no longer keep hidden her secret identity.
What happens when her parents discover the scheme? I’m hoping that your curiosity is sufficiently piqued, and that you will read and enjoy the book which is now available in Europe in bookstores or directly from the publisher, and soon to be available in bookstores and online in North America. To find out more about Axelle, about women in Formula 1, about how I came to write the book, and what future projects I’m working on, visit my new website.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

There's a show in Brooklyn…

called "Drift," from August 1 to August 30th. The works are by a young artist named Vianney Paul, someone I happen to know very well #'-), and this is his first solo show since moving to New York last spring…

It's at the Fiona & Ryan Gallery, 362 Atlantic Avenue.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Combinaison gagnante...

paraîtra le 19 août 2010 chez Editions Talents Hauts, dans leur collection Livres et égaux.

Axelle Blanchard ne rêve que d'une chose : être pilote de course ! Toutefois, sa famille ne voit pas son avenir de la même façon. Le sport automobile est réservé aux garçons. Le frère d'Axelle, lui, aimerait bien en être dispensé d'aller à l'entraînement toutes les semaines. Mais Axelle est une jeune fille bien déterminée à suivre sa route, et Guillaume a une idée. Ainsi décident-ils d'échanger leurs rôles. D'intrigue en intrigue, de quiproquo en quiproquo, Axelle revêtira la combinaison et le casque de son frère pour affirmer sa vraie identité, celle d'une championne. C'est la combinaison gagnante !

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Editions Talents Hauts

I am very pleased to annonce that in just over two months, Editions Talents Hauts will publish my first book, Combinaison gagnante. This relatively young, decidely dynamic, and entirely original French publishing house has built its reputation on collections linked to two principle themes - gender equality and bilingualism. Created in 2005 by Laurence Faron and Mélanie Decourt, Editions Talents Hauts publishes illustrated books for children and teens in which text and image leap from the pages to catch your interest, hook you, and hold you there until you ask for more.

Their collections include:

Filles = Garçons (gender equality)
     Picture Books, for children 3 to 7
     Livres et égaux, for children 8 to 10
Français / English (bilingual... no translation!)
     DUAL Books
     Mini-DUAL Books
     DUAL Books +
     Oops & Ohlala
     Filou & Pixie

Combinaison gagnante will be released in August 2010 in Talent Hauts' collection, Livres et égaux

More to follow

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Need to "Pardon My French"

The expression "Pardon my French," which I have never liked, should be replaced with "Admire my French!" Someone uses some sort of profanity, and in a show of false embarrassment or pretended regret at having used such language, asks to be forgiven. Why would anyone want to apologize for using one of the world's most eloquent languages, and I might add, a very difficult one to master. Is it because French language speakers are considered more libertine, more risqué in their use of language, and that consequently, if one swears, one was only being a bit French, since the equivalent word or expression, were it to be used among French speakers, would not raise an eyebrow? Perhaps French speakers are more permissive, more tolerant, more naughty? I wonder if we are all just a bit envious.

I was lately reminded of the expression by an excellent article that appeared in the New York Times written by Michael Kimmelman's and entitled "Pardon My French," only here, the expression wittily suits the author's purposes. Kimmelman is razor sharp in his theory of how the French language will carry on in the future, even prosper, thanks to populations of peoples outside the Hexagon, explaining that France's proprietory relationship to the French language cannot continue, and that the French must get a grip on reality, ie, he writes, "French is now spoken mostly by people who aren't French. More than 50 percent of them are African. French speakers are more likely to be Haitians and Canadians, Algerians and Senegalese, immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia and the Caribbean who have settled in France, bringing their native cultures with them."

Kimmelman goes a step further in raising the question, "So what does French culture signify these days when there are some 200 million French speakers in the world, but only 65 million are actually French?" He relates the story of Andrei Makine, a Russian-born novelist who has not only written novels in French for the past three decades, has been awarded France's highest literary honors for his works. Writing in French has allowed Makine to belong to a culture which is not that of his mother tongue. And Kimmelman reminds us that although France lays claim to non-French born French-language writers such as Beckett (Irish), Ionesco (Roumanian), and Kundera (Czech), it virtually ignores what comes out of the Carribbean or North Africa.

Albert Camus once said, Ma patrie, c'est la langue française. "The French language is my homeland." After more than four decades of an ongoing love affair with the French language, now there's an expression I can live with.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Delphine de Vigan me parle, ou La naissance d'un roman

Vendredi soir, Delphine de Vigan m'a parlé. Pas personnellement: simplement, je me trouvais dans l'assistance à une conférence qu'elle donnait à l'Alliance Francaise de Washington, au sujet de son livre No et moi. Tout comme son écriture m'avait plu lorsque que j'avais lu ce livre il y a un an, cette femme m'a plu. Finesse, délicatesse, force, clarté, simplicité, complexité : ce sont ces mots qui me viennent en tête lorsque je me remémore sa causerie. Elle a parlé du processus d'écriture et bien qu'elle soit un écrivain établi, publié déjà six fois depuis dix ans, écrivant des romans pour adultes, et connaissant un grand succès en France et à l'étranger, eh bien, moi, je me suis sentie de tout cœur avec elle lorsqu'elle a parlé de la démarche d'écriture, car je suis écrivain aussi, débutant certes, écrivant pour les enfants avec une toute première publication prévue pour août 2010, mais malgré ces grands écarts, je me suis reconnue complètement dans sa démarche. Elle m'a tenue en haleine dès le début de sa causerie grâce à ces deux remarques-ci : elle tenait un journal dès son adolescence jusqu'à 29 ans, et elle n'a arrêté cette pratique qu'avec l'arrivée de ses enfants et la vie de mère très prenante. Elle porte un noyau d'idée très longtemps en tête avant d'écrire le premier mot.

Voici ses livres :
Jours sans faim 2001
Les jolis garçons 2005 (Prix littéraire Saint Valentin)
Un soir de décembre 2007
No et moi 2007 (Prix des libraires) (Prix Rotary International)
Sous le manteau 2008
Les heures souterraines 2009 (Prix Darcos)

Pendant l'écriture de ses premiers romans, elle exerçait un métier de cadre dans un institut de sondage, donc, elle travaillait le jour et écrivait la nuit. Mais le succès de No et moi a tout changé. Aujourd'hui, elle peut vivre de sa plume : plus de 100.000 exemplaires de vendus, No et moi a été traduit en vingt langues, et un projet de cinéma est en cours. Cette histoire raconte la rencontre entre Lou, une adolescente de treize ans, précoce et surdouée, vivant chez des parents qui ont vécu la mort d'un enfant, et No, une jeune femme de 18 ans, sans domicile fixe, que Lou essaie d'aider. A travers le personnage de No, Delphine de Vigan nous oblige à regarder en face nos attitudes envers tout ceux que nous rencontrons au fils des jours qui sont marginalisés par la perte de domicile, mais plus largement et plus profondément par la perte d'identité.

Vendredi soir, elle a cherché à répondre à la question : comment naissent les romans? On brasse des idées, on retient une phrase, on note un titre. La nuit, à tout moment, on est en éveil, c'est un mouvement perpétuel, une façon particulière d'absorber les choses. Pour l'histoire de No et moi, il y a eu un moment déclencheur. Sur son chemin pour aller au travail tous les jours, Delphine voyait des gens sans abri, et au fil du temps, la presence de femmes très jeunes l'a interpellée. Leur image l'a hantée et l'idée est née : c'était le point de départ. Elle fait ensuite une recherche sur la précarité et sur le phénomène du rajeunissement et la féminisation des personnes sans domicile fixe. Entre la naissance de l'idée et la rédaction, il y a l'incubation. Les questions suivantes se posent : quel point de vue, quel narratif. Ensuite, ça se "débroussaille" et les choses s'éclaircissent. Elle a imaginé la rencontre entre Lou, précoce et surdouée, et en conséquence marginalisée, dont la maman est dépressive, et No, la jeune SDF. Et en cherchant la voix, elle trouve la voie. Elle veut que son texte soit simple, musical et singulier, tout à la fois. Ecrire, dit Delphine de Vigan, c'est comme tricoter. On démarre, on monte ses mailles. On travaille mais parfois le tricot prend des formes tout à fait inattendues. Quand on écrit un livre, c'est la même chose : on démarre, on monte ses personnages, son intrigue, mais on ne sait pas toujours où l'écriture nous mènera. La construction d'un roman, c'est comme monter des Legos, une brique après l'autre. Une fois la construction faite, un auteur a envie d'accompagner son livre, aller au devant des lecteurs. C'est vraiment un travail de cœur.

Delphine de Vigan a mentionné que souvent la presse et le monde de l'édition aiment bien cataloguer. Elle serait ainsi une romancière "intime", "sociale", "engagée" mais elle ne veut pas être limitée par ces étiquettes. Ce qui est sûr, c'est que son écriture est lyrique, féminine, élégiaque. Je n'ai pas osé lui demander quelle était l'idée qui mûrissait actuellement dans sa tête, mais je m'attends à ce qu'elle nous étonne encore. C'est une femme à la pensée originale qui n'a que faire de ce qui "se vendrait". Heureusement pour nous, ses lecteurs.

Quelle douce bavarde ! Quelle fine raconteuse ! Quel plaisir de l'écouter bavarder et raconter ! Cette soirée a passé bien trop vite : je l'aurai bien écoutée davantage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 SCBWI Conference in New York

From Washington DC, I took the bus up to New York with my friend and colleague, Marie-Isabelle Callier, French-language children's author and illustrator (published by Alice Editions in Brussels), for my very first SCBWI national conference. (If you weren't there, you can read all about it at the Official SCBWI conference blog.) It's difficult to sum up the wealth of information, encounters, new contacts, and inspiration that I received while there. I found it so encouraging to be with creative and determined people from all over the country. I liked the friendliness. I soaked up the stories of perserverence I found there. Jane Yolen's keynote address on Sunday was high on encouragement never to give up. I loved her line about networking: not only is it key, but she noted that the editorial assistant sitting next to me today just might be tomorrow's publisher! She added that if the publishing world is struggling, the work of storytelling is alive and kicking. The message - whether it be from Libby Bray, Alvina Ling, Allyn Johnston, or Jane Yolen - was that a writer, an illustrator must be true to himself or herself, that we write and create our art for children and young people by, as Jane Yolen put it, pouring our heart out on the page (only one of her twenty rules!). I loved meeting Ashley Wolff, an experienced and wonderfully creative illustrator from San Francisco, who chatted with Marie-Isabelle and me as if we were all old friends, as well as her friend, Louise Borden, a wonderful writer from Cincinnati, whom I would have loved to have had more time with, once I found out about her chronicling the escape of the Margret and H.A. Rey as the Nazis were approaching Paris. I feel sure she would have told me her whole story, had we had the time! I loved the collaborative spirit, the "we're in this together" attitude, the camaraderie and solidarity amongst artists. 

I had waited too late in registering for the Writers' Intensive, but since I was in New York by Thursday, I had the idea of showing up anyway, thinking someone out in the Midwest would surely be snowed in, and that I could fill in for him or her! Well, five other people - Joan Juttner from Wisconsin, Trela Caler from San Francisco, Joanna Sullivan from Pennsylvania, and Debbie Guthery from Nashville, and Karen Robbins from Seattle (who astounded us with her creativite spirit) - all had had the same idea. When, at 9am, we were told by the organizers that the intensive session really was full, well, qu'à cela ne tienne, we created our own group, and spent three hours in a critique session in the morning, and three more hours in a critique session that afternoon. These women were amazing and their stories even better! Never give up? That's the spirit.

One slight disappointment I felt was in ascertaining from talks with other attendees that children's literature in translation (something that I am totally passionate about - see blogpost from October) is not yet hot... in fact, it conjures up yawns more than anything else. But legendary agent Sheldon Fogelman said, after I approached him with a question about translation, "You write in French? You're going through the editorial process with an editor in Paris? You have a book coming out in France? My dear, you have your work cut out for you! What are worrying about?" During his lecture that morning, he had noted that as writers, we mustn't stop at book one. Or book two for that matter. Keep writing, he said. The profession is difficult, but if you choose it, writing is your job. He's right. And since I do have a book with an editor in France with an expected publication date of end 2010... well, I just have to keep on writing - in French, in English, however the story comes to me - and to send my work out as much as possible in the hope that it is good enough, written from the heart enough, to be picked up by an editor who wants that story told. The realities of the publishing world can be discouraging, but being informed helps. How lucky we are to have SCBWI to help us chart our course.

Le mot de la fin? I have my work cut out for me. Marie-Isabelle - whose heartfelt stories I've been translating into English with more pleasure than I can say and which I feel sure will one day find their way to an editor who will at first glance fall in love with them - felt the same way as we talked endlessly on our way home Sunday afternoon. Back in DC, we are excited, discouraged, renewed, unsure of ourselves pehaps, but exhilarated... and yes, ready to continue the adventure.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sanga Equation

John Xavier Paul, Mahesh Somashekhar, Lena Seikaly, Ethan Foote

With this blogpost, I'm taking a bit of a detour away from my usual subjects to write about music. The story of the Sanga Equation's most recent performance must be told!

First, a bit of history.The Sanga Equation was formed in early summer 2005 when John Xavier Paul, on the lam after a stint with an AU-based indie rock group, asked several local DC musicians, including now-rising jazz vocalist Lena Seikaly, to form a small, experimental combo with the following line-up: pianist, vocalist, bassist, drummer. The idea was to create an original sound that was steeped in the tradition of jazz innovation, and with that as a foundation, do some experimenting. Enthusiam ensued: Lena signed on, Ted Hamilton would do drums, and a bassist was found. The group practiced, played a few gigs in the DC area, but after initially getting things off to a brilliant start, John was scheduled to leave for France for his Masters degree while Lena remained in the DC area to finish her BFA and continue her ascent to jazz greatness... so the group was "on hold." John Xavier, however, was so excited about what the group had accomplished in such a short time that, during his flight to Paris in October 2005, he began to plan a tour for Sanga in France the following summer. Lena was easily persuaded, Ted signed on immediately for the adventure, and bass prodigy Ethan Foote was recruited to complete the equation. And they were off. The tour was a great success. In keeping with French tradition, France adored the Sanga Equation. Since then, the group has been seasonal, but everytime they get together, everytime they perform, there is a groove and an excitement that just won't go away.

The halllmark of the Sanga Equation is originality, freshness, and that je ne sais quoi that is sparked when creative spirits come together. Although many people enjoy being entertained with songs they know or are familiar with, there are those who are turned on by funkiness and innovation, and a little experimentation. The set list (see below) from Friday night's gig is proof that the Sanga Equation does all of the above. Eight of the 18 tunes performed were originals composed by members of the group: four by Ethan, three by John Xavier, and one by Lena. And in this latest line-up, with newcomer drummer Mahesh Somashekhar intertwining energy and sensitivity, the beat goes on. The jazz tunes they performed were not standards, they were pieces created by innovators in the field: Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock.... along with a tune by the eclectic French singer-songwriter and poet Serge Gainsbourg. The arrangements were fresh and inventive, and the communication and pleasure among the musicians was palpable. The crowd at this private gathering was unanimous: the Sanga Equation exudes verve, freshness, outrageousness, energy, pizazz, innovation... and in jazz parlance, they were tight. Many of us are hoping that we'll see and hear more of them in the months to come. Some of us pray for a recording. Affaire à suivre...

Set 1
Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter - instrumental
Reincarnation of a Love Bird - Charles Mingus - instrumental
Les Valseuses - Ethan Foote
Valse Encore - Ethan Foote
Ces Petits Riens - Serge Gainsbourg
Tune Up - Miles Davis
Interplay - Bill Evans - instrumental
Litha - Chick Corea
What the Paper Says - John Xavier Paul

Set 2
Wall to Wall - Herbie Hancock - instrumental
Bring your Handkerchief - John Xavier Paul
Pray to the WInd - John Xavier Paul
Lost in Thought - Ethan Foote
Inception - McCoy Tyner - instrumental
Song of Youth - Ethan Foote -instrumental
Here Again - Lena Seikaly
La Fiesta - Chick Corea
Nica's Dream - Horace Silver