by Melinda Gallo

Writing in St. Germain-en-Laye

My returning to Paris for longer periods of time has brought me many gifts. What’s interesting is that I never did choose Paris, just like I never really chose Florence. I was hired to work in Paris, even though I wanted to return to Lyon where I studied for one year. And with Florence, I was told it was the only place in Italy where I could learn Italian without having to contend with a dialect.

Living in Florence :: Writing in St. Germain-en-Laye

When I moved to Paris in 1990, I didn’t know that I wanted to write. My goal at that time was to live in France. A few months after I arrived, I began writing poetry in French to help me get through some lonely moments I was living. It wasn’t until 1994 that I found a writing workshop held by Kathleen Spivack. I attended for a few weeks, and eventually went to two other workshops in New Mexico with her. For the last ten years, we have remained in contact, but never had a chance to meet up again.

This weekend, she held a workshop and I was fortunate to be able to attend. She’s in Paris as well for two months and I already had the opportunity to meet up with her when I was in Paris in February.

For me, Paris attracts writers and Florence attracts artists. For me, writers are artists, but thanks to many of the expat writers in Paris, that desire to write in Paris is great.

I was happy to go to St. Germain-en-Laye, a city just outside of Paris, where I coincidentally lived for a few months in 1994. When I exited the RER, the château (castle) is just across the street. The large park is filled with bare trees lined up perfectly along gravel paths. A railing borders the edge of the park where I looked out onto the valley below and Paris in the distance. I could see the top of the Eiffel Tower, but not the city very clearly.

I strolled in the park as I had many times before when I lived there, and felt a great sense of serenity come over me. Something inside of me felt at peace, as if my life was right on track. I didn't feel a rush to do something or go anywhere. I felt peaceful where I was in the park about to attend the writing workshop.

Kathleen’s workshop was not only informative, but inspiring. I couldn’t wait to get home and write. Besides the inspiration to persevere, the other gift I received was meeting two women writers with whom I will meet up with when I come to Paris. Not just as friends, but also to write together, share our work, and provide positive feedback for each other. I have been craving a connection with other fiction writers and now I have found it.

I have many writer friends in Florence, and but few of them write fiction. I think one also needs to feel an affinity with another person to share writing, and I am so fortunate to have found these two women. It seems as if each step I take is a step in the right direction for me and my writing life.

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