French Lessons: Champagne All Around

A few years ago, I did a writing residency at the Atlantic Center for  the Arts in Florida.  It was magical, that place.  They had a room full of beach cruisers for us to ride — and the ocean wasn’t very far.  The writer who was the “master artist,” Antonya Nelson, turned out to be called Toni, and to be not in the least bit scary, which was my great fear.  I got a lot done there.  And I became friends with some really remarkable women.

One of these women was Ellen Sussman.  I’d been seeing her anthologies around in bookstores with provocative names like Bad Girls, and Dirty Words (which has an essay in it by my first writing teacher, Thaisa Frank) and honestly, I was as intimidated by her as I was by Antonya Nelson.

And then I met Ellen and she wasn’t intimidating in the least.  What she is, among many other things, is a really disciplined writer.  While we were in Florida, she sold French Lessons, a novel that she had been sweating over for quite a while, to get it just right.  Apparently, she got it even more than just right.  There was an auction and a glamorous trip to New York to meet with her new editor and a bunch of other stuff that left me speechless because it seemed so, well, professional.  And then there was champagne.

And here’s the book.  It just came out.  It’s wise and bright like Ellen.  And quite moving.  It’s the sort of book that makes you feel just a little bit more alive, more awake, and grateful that Paris exists and people like Ellen are around to write about it.

So, champagne all around.

it might be a little hard to read this review, but you can find it here
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9 thoughts on “French Lessons: Champagne All Around

    • There are a lot of great roles in my book for women and men who’re over 40. Maybe you will adapt it into a fabulous movie and we will both be RICH. Actually, all I really want at this point in my life is to be finished so I can get back to the next one which is also about a woman who’s over 40. And ditto the one after that. I suppose after all THAT is done, I’ll be dead, at least at the rate I’m going. Still, three books. That’s not too bad. James Dean only made three movies, right?

  1. I just love it when things like that happen for people…and I really hope it happens for you, and you can attend workshops and intimidate other poor beginning writers like me :)

    I will definitely look up this book, because heaven knows I love anything to do with France.

  2. It’s always so special to know the person behind the book. And lucky Ellen to have your friendship. I’ll be looking out for this – hope it crosses the Atlantic sometime soon.

  3. litlove — It is! The people I admire the most have always been writers. The only fan letter I have ever written was to Noel Streatfeild (have you ever noticed how many vowels there are in her name and how unpredictable the lineup is in her last name? me neither.) She wrote me back in FOUNTAIN PEN ink. It was the most thrilling moment of my young life. And yes, I think you’d like Ellen’s book.

    Hi Becca — haha. I’m about the least intimidating person I know. (Don’t ask my kids, though. They would say something different, but then that’s only right, I guess.) And I would love being in a writing workshop with you! xo

    Dodie — tout de suite — do you remember when we used to call the people we lived with our freshman year our “suitees”? Well, you truly are.

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