Wednesday 2 December 2020

A sequel to 'But you are in France, Madame.'

2020 has been a bumpy year, but one of those jolts flung me with great insistence back to my desk. Weaving a French Life: An Australian story, a sequel to But you are in France, Madame, is the result. I'm not quite there, but hope to give you a purchase link by the end of next week.

On the 14th August, I was at 24000 words. I wrote every day and for more hours than I was physically comfortable doing so. At the end of each day, I noted down my new word count. Seeing the increased number was a huge motivator and helped to keep me positive and on track, but on this day, I hand wrote myself a little note (dot points really). I had already made significant progress, but was not sure of the exact path that I should be taking to those satisfying words, 'The End.' I needed to give myself a pep talk ... and put a little emotional distance between me and the project.

My dot points looked (a little) like this:

  • How could I have not known until now that writing was important to me?
  • Getting to the end will take time but I've done it before and that gives me confidence that I will get there.
  • It is my story - so sod off anyone who will read it and criticise. (Fighting words that are much harder to live by ...)
  • I don't know how it is all going to turn out but have to trust the process.
  • It is exciting - even soothing - to write.
  • It is also nerve-wracking. Will the words dry up tomorrow? Can I continue to be creative?
  • I feel an urgency to get the story done, the words down...

There were other bits 'n pieces on my note to self, but I read this now and empathise with the person (me) who was writing. There was self-doubt, it was hard work, and I did feel exposed as I prepared to put myself and my story out there again. If it is not for the financial rewards, and if it is not for the acclaim, what is it for? 

Me, I guess. 

But, I'd love it if you journeyed with me, too.

It will be available in ebook and print forms. Let me know ( if you'd like me to put aside a print copy for you. Book AU$25 plus postage.

'But you are in France, Madame,' available here

PS Thank-you to everyone who wrote to me after my last post. I would have responded individually but, for some strange reason, I cannot leave messages on my own blog. Also, I have no idea why a post from April 2019 popped up in my (and I presume your) feed. A glitch probably of my unintentional making- sorry!

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Listening to my critics

Five years ago, I wrote 'But you are in France, Madame.' I had no particular aspiration to tell my story, no desire to hold a published book in my hands, no illusion that I was doing the world a service by writing - and certainly no belief that it would be a money-making venture. So, why did I do it? I guess it was for me. The thing is that I did not realise that at the time. Neither did I truly understand that my story would be read around the world and that that would open me up to scrutiny ... to criticism. Naive? Probably. 

I have been called a bogan (and similar), my parenting has been questioned and my writing has been pulled apart ... by people who do not know me but feel completely at ease with passing judgement. Some days, the personal attacks are so hurtful that I feel that the only option is to give up ... to stop writing. It usually takes a couple of days before I can once again put into perspective that these anonymous (and most are that) attacks could possibly be saying more about those who write them than me. I slowly pull myself together and start again - before the cycle repeats.

But, I have listened to those who have bothered to write with actionable critiques. You were right: I was inexperienced; I did not know anything about writing or the publishing process. For you, I have updated my files for 'But you are in France, Madame': available in print or ebook by clicking on the links.

And in so doing, I take heart from Germaine Greer*; a stellar, accomplished literary figure. In an interview with Julia Zamiro, she tells us that she did not consider her first book, 'The Female Eunach,' to be her best book but goes on to say that it was the best book that she could write at the time. 

Here's to listening and learning ... and being gentle, or even re-considering, when you feel the urge to be nasty.

*Germaine Greer (/ɡrɪər/; born 29 January 1939) is an Australian writer and public intellectual, regarded as one of the major voices of the radical feminist movement in the later half of the 20th century. (thank-you Wikipedia)

Monday 10 August 2020

Let it grow, let it grow...

I moved my desk downstairs a week or so ago. Historically, when we bought this house and all three children were still living at home, there was not enough room to have a study of my own. My desk was placed in the kitchen and didn't ever get moved out. I haven't minded, particularly during lockdown, as it has meant that I have been blessed with lovely meandering conversations as different members of the family have wandered up for food at various times of the day. Long coffee breaks have been spontaneous and I've also had quick access to the microwave to re-heat my heat packs, and to the kettle (which in our case is a saucepan on the stove). Sure, occasionally it has been hard to concentrate and I decided after years of not even contemplating a move for my desk and me, that it was time. 
That evening I read two reviews for But you are in France, Madame. They had come in a week or so apart but I hadn't noticed them. One was a 2-star review, the other 5 stars. Which do you think wouldn't leave me and gave me a fitful night's sleep?

Apparently, it is human nature to dwell on the negative so that we learn not to make the same mistake twice. Huh. Well that hasn't worked. I had moved my desk in order to concentrate better on writing 

Now, one of the other bonuses of the last few months is that I have taken the time to nurture my plants. Look how they are rewarding me.                        

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Pride cometh before a fall

I ran up the stairs yesterday with a smug feeling: no idea why, but I was feeling pretty happy with myself. My slipper caught the top of the step. I didn't fall, but I was quite literally taken down a peg. Slightly more cautiously, I rounded the entrance to the kitchen. My shoulder caught the wall. Again, I steadied myself and spun slowly around a couple of times... reflective. Positivity; not allowed? Optimism; too bold? Smile and confidence banished.

It occurred to me that those few moments were a good representation of my writing journey. The ups and downs can be confoundingly extreme. On a good day, I hear from people around the world, my book sales are good, I will wake up and have messages from real editors (does that make me a real writer?) and the words pour out of me. Then there are the bad days. I see me as people who don't know me, see me...and oftentimes, that is judgemental. I get it.

Part of the internal debate comes from this gnarly question: as a self-published author, am I a real writer? Way back when I had no idea of what I was doing, I didn't have a choice. I also know that I presumed, incorrectly, that knocking once at a few doors was all that anyone did. Most days, I assume my decision, but love falling on articles like this one, Facts and Figures about Self Publishing: The Impact and Influence of Indie Authors

Whichever way you look at the math, indie authors earn more per sale than those who work exclusively with trade publishers. The average trade-published author earns approximately 7.5% of their’s books cover price, and those with agents lose a further 15% of that. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon, Apple Books, Ingram Spark and Kobo pay up to 70% of each book sold to authors. Those indie authors who sell direct to readers from their own websites take in up to 96% of the value of the book. Of course, publishing costs have to be deducted from this income but there’s no question that over the life of a book, indie authors earn more. 

Then, the judgement is so much more tolerable.

Little by little, I am figuring things out. It is quite the journey.

To read my contribution to this world of Indies, click here for your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame' or send me a message A bientôt.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Is there a right time for France?

Is there a right time for France? Yes.
Is there a perfect time? No.

I'm not talking about a holiday, but the question of how one decides on the timing for that big French trip - family adventure, permanent move, year-long sabbatical...?

The thing is, most of us, given a little encouragement, will choose inertia; what we are familiar or comfortable with. It takes effort, commitment, and a real belief in what you are doing, to resist the urge to stay put.

It also takes clarity about why you are even thinking about going to France. Have you put pen to paper and debated the answers to questions such as:

Why France and not another country?

For how long do you want to go?

Where in France do you think you will be happy - be specific: city, village, seaside, mountains...?

Is it to run away from what is your current normal?

What if you don't like it when you get there?

What if you decide to stay longer than your original plan?

Do you have the finances to cover your time away?

How does work, present and future, fit into the plan to go to France?

How will you find accommodation, schools, doctors, dentists, information..?

How will you cope with being distant from family and friends?

Is learning the language important to you?

Each person's situation is different, but I want to focus specifically on planning your French adventure with children. Timing, then, is a subject of enormous consideration, and often great angst for parents. From talking to families planning their time away, doing our own French adventure and my years of working as Head of School, I would say this: we are very good at protecting our children, shielding them from difficulties, and not fully believing that they are (or can become) resilient and strong when things don't work out for them. More questions:

Is your trip principally for them, for you or for the family?

Is your trip so that your children can become bilingual?

Is it so that your children can see the world from a different perspective?

How will they cope with a change from what is familiar?

Only you know what your children are capable of, but I would guard against making decisions based on what you believe your children do and don't want. They don't yet know and unless you give them an opportunity to spread their wings, they may not know for longer...or ever. My experience is that more people regret not going than going, even when things are difficult for a period of time.

Gathering information and talking with others that have done, or are thinking of doing, their trip to France is useful, although, once again, the questions will never all be answered fully, and the timing will never be perfect for every member of your family. Don't be swayed, or side-tracked, by another family's decision making (including mine 😏).

All good luck to you. My personal perspective is that most things are surmountable, and that the positives do outweigh the negatives. If you need a sounding board, drop me a line at

To read about our French experience, 'But you are in France, Madame' can be purchased directly from me (email above) or by clicking on the link.