I am frowning at the back of my camera. Remi, who has already passed ahead on the trail, stops, sees my expression and asks, "What is it?" I blow out my lips in frustration, horse-like. "Well...it's just that...sometimes I just can't get it. I can't capture what I see." "Show me." I do. Three pinecones lolling from skinny branches. "Do you want the background to be blurry?" That's it. "It doesn't look like anything if everything is in focus," I whine. "I want them to float." "Well, then you need to work on your depth of field," he responds. I practically slap my forehead with the my palm. I always forget. Photographing in manual is interesting because you get to choose. I can shift the focus.
I am often asked about the title of this blog, usually half-jokingly, half-hoping, "You aren't really lost, right?" I get a lot of comments about being "found" too. But the truth is, when I launched into this particular form of writing coming up on four years ago, I really needed to find my way. I was coming off the most difficult year of my life - my Dad had died, we had to sell our beloved home and gallery due to the financial crisis - one that had crumbled the French press and left me without work as a travel writer. I was truly floundering at sea and floating in pain and worry, without direction.
I give all credit where credit is due. Remi, my wonderful companion, the man who knows what I am feeling from the next room even when I haven't said a word, floated out the suggestion that I start a blog. I will admit it again as I have before that I scoffed outright. At the time, I felt that bloggers were simply folks who couldn't cut their teeth in the professional world of the press where I had come from - similar to the ridiculous expression, one that makes my blood boil now, "Those who can't do teach." But he insisted, gently. And one day, a good a day as any, I heard him and realized that I could type with my inactive hands and by doing so, I could change things for myself by simply being creative.
Writing has it's tides and the irony isn't lost on me that I was asked to participate in a blog tour by my friend, the truly lovely Jeanne Henriques at Collage of Life during a time when the waves are far from the shore. "Rien dans ce monde n'arrive par hasard." So I have been taking steps back, quiet ones, all the better to get a better picture of how the machine works. I have already had the distinction of being interviewed by another friend, Judith Ross, about my process as a blogger for an article Talking Writing Magazine. What is interesting to me is to see how that too has shape-shifted as of late and even better, to pass on that baton to three incredible women.So on to the blog tours standard questions:
What am I working on?
Whew, that is a knee-slapper. What am I not working on? I realize that this question is meant to be answered in terms of "projects" - a word that makes me press my mouth together in a flat line of consternation - but why not answer honestly: "on rebuilding my self-confidence" "on sharpening my eye" "on trusting"...true, I would eventually like to build a book out of Lost in Arles but it is a slow process. I have nothing but great admiration for those who have already done so. This chapter of my life in Arles is nearing to a close, so I think that the right moment to culminate my random pieces into something whole might be at hand. I love the idea of having something solid to hold in my hands, especially as I have been struggling with the ephemeral nature of the internet as of late.
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
If you have read this far, you have probably already gotten a taste that I don't sugar-coat what I share. Yes, this is Provence and I am so proud to be able to celebrate its beauty but my life is not perfect, no one's is. I would rather be honest about that or not write at all.
I am also a stickler for only creating my own content, visually and verbally. There aren't that many of us out there that do that these days. Lately, I have gone back to something that I used to enjoy a lot - which is weaving the texts and images together so that it becomes - well, hopefully - a joyful interplay.
Why do I write what I do?
I was taking tea with Vicki Archer - one of the smartest women that I have the privilege to know - and she told me, as she had a year previously, "You really need to know why you are doing this." "I do it for me," I responded immediately, also for the second time. Remi has been instrumental in reminding me to stay true to my own interests from the beginning. "Don't try and please others," he insists. It took about a year for that to sink in without my reacting defensively and now it is my Modus Operandi. The moment when I sit down to write is a glorious one for me, one of the moments that I feel the most "me" in my life and I never take that freedom for granted.
How does my writing process work?
I remember one of the questions that surprised me in Judith's interview was, "Do you ever feel that your photographs are a crutch?" I wasn't quite sure what to think of that at the time but currently, my photography - or more importantly, the act of seeing so as to take them - usually leads the way. I mentioned earlier that I have been at a loss for words as of late but I am never at a loss for photos. They sit in files on my desktop, grouped into subjects. Often when I am working on them, an idea might spark of how I could use them, preferably not literally but sometimes that is just what needs to happen. I will prepare them the day before I sit down to write and then will clear my head while taking the dogs on their morning walk. I write really, really quickly once I have my launching off point. As Jeanne touched upon while introducing me, music is madly important to me. Today, I have been listening to London Grammar at high volume - the headphones in my ears to focus the sound and to give Remi a visual cue that I am "not here." Usually I will listen to one song constantly on repeat - lately it has been "Wasting My Young Years" by the same group. I edit, reread what I have until I am just on the verge of getting sick of it, then hit "publish" before I do so. But all of this is a fast process, always on the same day. I know that each blogger has their own workings and the "why" of mine serves me as fuel.
And now, the good stuff.
The writers that came to my mind have all been mentioned here in one form or another. And while their stories, efforts and lives are all quite different, they are linked - for me - with one word: authenticity. Suze is one of my soul sisters, I feel linked to her even though we have never met. She constantly opens the doors in my heart and does so with such ease and grace. Loree is the shy poet who doesn't yet consider herself a writer and yet once you grasp on to her evocative prose, you might beg to differ. And then there is Nancy-Kate, who regularly makes me bark out loud with gales of laughter that are spot-on and yet never mean-spirited. I know from when I was acting that, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." There is an effortlessness in all of these women's writing that is a joy to take in and that can most certainly be said about my host, Jeanne. You can't help but want to be her friend, to want to spend time in her world. She is deeply loved in the blogging community and her generosity of spirit, charm and wit are only a few of the reasons why.
Suze is sitting in front of a winking cursor wondering what the heck to write about herself. She has experience as a copy editor, columnist, educator, wife and mother and finds writing about herself in third person kinda fun. She's listening to Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' on Sirius and her plus-size tortoiseshell cat just made a strangely self-satisfied sound as she yawned. Suze recently accepted an offer of representation from John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency for her humorous contemporary Middle Grade novel, KYLE CONSTANTINI FINDS A WAY, and fully expects soul-numbingly wonderful things ahead.
Lorna Dykstra (or Loree as she is known to her circle of friends) is a pharmacist by profession. By day she works in a multi-national pharmaceutical company and by night you will find her at her desk doing what she loves best - writing. Home is the island of Malta, right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, where she lives with her American husband and eight-going-on-eighteen year old son. She describes herself as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a dreamer, a hopeless romantic, an endless contradiction. Lorna loves the NW wind, grey skies and rough seas, golden sunsets and ancient, winding streets. She also loves chocolate: the dark and bitter kind. Her other passions are reading, photography and baking. A bit of a gypsy at heart, she is always on the look-out for the next adventure that will take her beyond the shores of the small island on which she lives. One of her dreams is to visit all the capital cities of Europe and the fifty American States. Lorna writes more or less weekly on her blog Stories & Scribbles and occasionally on her second blog Snapshots of an Island.
Nancy Kate Ryder is a Tennessee girl who managed to find her way to Grenoble via New Zealand and Australia. Now she is happily (most of the time) installed in France with her French husband and writing about all of her various and sundry cultural mishaps on her blog Bread is Pain. She is also in the midst of editing her first novel, a comic romance, which is a task she looks upon with both loathing and affection. In addition, she has a passion for
eating cooking and occasionally throws a new recipe up on a food blog: Bread is Pain Food…apparently she has been unable to come up with more than one blog title. She loves long walks on the beach, drinks at sunset, and self-deprecating humor.
And now for my host. Jeanne, I am truly honored that you asked me to participate in this tour. It is a great, great compliment coming from such an amazing woman as yourself.
Jeanne Henriques is wife to a nomadic husband, mother to four independent children, one well-travelled dog and is the writer behind the blogs, Collage of Life and Expat Diary Viet Nam. Over the past 26 years, her family has packed up and moved between America, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Vietnam. She has some ideas of when and where the Expat Express will go next but can never be certain. Jeanne recently added “empty nester” to her repertoire with her four children now living between America and Australia. She looks to the years ahead as an opportunity to explore new horizons. She hangs her hat and camera part of the year at Chateau Mango in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the other half at Tahilla Farm in the foothills of the Monadnock mountain range in New Hampshire. She writes to tell the tale. You can follow her adventures on her blogs, Collage of Life, and Expat Diary Viet Nam. Jeanne can also be found chatting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
And there we have it! I will now pass the baton on to the three lovely ladies and they will nominate three writers in kind (Suze the rebel has more that she is going to ask!) while responding to the blog hop questionnaire. Thank you for reading, thank you for being here and I hope you enjoy discovering these wonderful worlds of words...
With my Very Best from Arles,