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Showing posts from December, 2017

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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

Looking for my great-grandfather's grave at a British Cemetery ... in France.

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British Cemetery, Courcelette, France
My husband and I spent last May hitting a few of the European hotspots Americans have been visiting for eons. London, Paris, Rome. The Cote d’Azur. One of the places we stopped at isn’t on everyone’s list: a trip to a cemetery about an hour north of Paris.  

Learning in 2015 that my grandfather and great-grandfather both fought in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in the Somme in France in the autumn of 1916 sparked my interest. Finding out that my great grandfather, George Hayden actually died there and was buried there, is what ultimately spurred our trip to Europe. I was born in England but hadn’t been home to England or the continent in almost 30 years. Why not make the most of it, visit the grave to pay our respects and squeeze in as much of Europe as we could over the course of a month, pushing our budget to the limit? Why not?

As it turned out, there were so many amazing sights to see that we left our visit to the cemetery until the end of our t…

Dreaming of France: 29 Avenue Rapp

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Scrolling through my Instagram& finding this image, I’m surprised I haven’t shared this particular French door for Dreaming of France before. 29 Avenue Rapp boasts what might be the most famous door in Paris. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.



Designed by Jules Lavirotte in 1901 it’s a striking example of Art Nouveau architecture and features the very risque sculpted Adam and Eve above the door. I first saw the building in the movie Gigi as the building where Gigi's Aunt Alicia lives and where Gigi goes for her lessons in how to catch the right man. Preferably someone rich like Gaston.

Naturally when Mark and I visited Paris, we had to pay the building a visit. What struck us about 29 Avenue Rapp was how many people just walk on by, as if were nothing special, just another old stone edifice, the door, just another entry. I think even if I lived on the block, even if I saw the building and its door every single day, I would still have to pause and take it in. Not a whole …