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June 2014

The (almost) Book Signing

photo 2Casually strolling around Barnes and Noble yesterday, well okay, frantically dashing around Barnes and Noble yesterday in search of the ‘New Releases’ table, I finally located an array of freshly minted novels only to discover a distinct absence of Letter From Paris.

I immediately approached an assistant and announced myself as the author of said tome, enquiring as to its whereabouts.

“A hundred and fifty of your stores are promoting my book this month.” I said, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice. “It doesn’t appear to be on the new releases table.”

The assistant was very helpful and her computer search revealed that five copies were indeed in stock and had been placed on a shelf on the top floor. I would find them under ‘T.’

Leaping onto the escalator in fevered excitement I continued my quest and soon regretting my nom de plume. Thérèse has left me alphabetically challenged, only slightly ahead of Zeus in the shelving pecking order. This means my book goes to the far right of the bottom shelf where the sun never shines. Even with my head at right angles to the floor or in the Downward Dog position I still couldn’t find it.

photoI approached another assistant who consulted another computer.

“We have five copies and they should be on the new releases table.” She says.

“They’re not.” I nod.

“ I see.” She says, then moving swiftly, heads to a shelf and performs an action a limbo dancer would envy. Proudly lifting all five copies she takes them over to the table.

“Thank you.” I say. “ I was thinking of buying the five.”

“Don’t you have enough in your garage already?” She laughs and then hesitates. “ Would you like to sign them?”

“Absolutely. I beam. I would be honored.”

With that she whips out some autograph stickers and places them carefully on the cover and I sign the copies.

It doesn’t matter that nobody was there to witness my very first bookstore signing. It is a moment I will never forget. I left the store floating on air, my head held high. Only another hundred and forty-nine Barnes and Nobles to go. I’m hitting the one in The Grove tomorrow if you’d care to join me.



A Red Letter Day

Trawling the web this morning for letter-themed inspiration, I stumbled on a little known fact; the first recorded handwritten letter was written by Persian Queen Atossa around 500BC.

Now I might win a pub quiz armed with this information, but come on, I want more. How did this come about? Did the queen wake up one morning and think ‘this is so important I must commit sharpened stick to papyrus and invent a whole new form of communication?’

I need to know what was in that letter don’t you? I mean this was the first EVER letter. Who did she write to? Who posted it? Did she get a reply? How did the idea go viral? Who invented the envelope? Who grabbed the marketing opportunity and invented the first letter opener, the postage stamp, the pen, the ink?

This is an entire semester’s worth of school class. If I were still teaching I’d be making handmade paper with the kids and researching ancient Persia with them. We’d have a mailbox in the classroom and post letters to each other everyday. I’d have them write a play about the royal court and produce it. We’d look at ancient parchment and study hieroglyphics. We’d lead onto a bigger project on communication. We’d move onto the impact of the Internet. We’d have so much fun. Oh yes. I forgot. You can’t do that since standardized testing took over. I taught way back, in the days when teachers were not treated like children and we were able to tailor the curriculum to the kids.

Sorry. I wasn’t expecting to go on a rant about education.  I was aiming to write something jolly in advance of my Red Letter Day tomorrow when Letter From Paris is published. There’s something evocative about a handwritten letter, it gives a quality to our lives we’re in danger of losing and it’s far more enduring than email or text. I mean, when was the last time you printed off emails and tied them with a ribbon to treasure or to give to your grandchildren one day?

I wonder if in years to come a website will record that the last letter ever handwritten was in the twenty-first century. I really hope not.



“Paris is Always A Good Idea” – Audrey Hepburn

So the countdown begins… I know you’ve been marking the days too. I see you’ve advanced ordered Letter From Paris. Thank you. I’m sure you can’t wait to receive your copy when the book is published next Tuesday. Yes – NEXT Tuesday June 10th … try to be patient for just a few more days.

You may have noticed from recent blogs that I was getting frustrated with this whole social media thing, ranting on about ‘likes’ and the lack of genuine connection. You know who you are… the folks on Facebook who ‘liked’ that I’d had a facelift without reading the post where it is abundantly clear that it is this website that has been new- improved not ME.

How about Facebook extends our options to include liking things – ‘A lot.’ ‘A little.’ ‘Not at all.’ ‘Possibly.’ or ‘Maybe later if I have the energy after I’ve liked another seven hundred posts…’ After all, making a comment takes far too much time.

Well, anyway, the point is, that as a result of hearing these frustrations and in a vote of confidence in my ability to communicate in real time with real people, the publishers are sending me on a radio tour. Yes. Moi…on the airwaves and coming to a station near you.

So I am getting very excited. I know it’s radio, not TV but I’m already planning my outfits. It’s important to feel French when promoting a book with a French theme n’est pas?

“Bien Sur” I hear you say.

Do you think you’re allowed to have your own background music? Happens a little Serge Gainsborough. Of course I may only get a quick plug on a graveyard slot broadcasting to some remote part of the planet yet to have Wi-Fi. But as this will be my debut, I plan on giving it everything I’ve got. Everyone deserves to go to Paris, if only in their imagination.

I’ll let you know the schedule soon. In the meantime I know you’re left with a conundrum. Should I ‘like’ this post? You’re thinking. Please do. Be my guest. I mean, hey…what’s not to like?