A Different Perspective

Sometimes, instead of looking at things in the cold light of day, it can be good to look at them in the darkness of night. 

My characters in my book will be travelling up the Seine in the thick of night, in freezing cold waters with soldiers looking for them.

My characters will be in waters like these

I know being on a cruise boat isn’t quite the same thing, but I decided to take a cruise to experience the sights sounds and smells of the river at night.

I sat up front in the open so I could breathe in the atmosphere.

The humming of the boat’s motor, the smell of the water, the swish of waves against the hull, the shouts of voices from the river bank.

A place takes on a whole different personna at night.

Seasons and time of day really make a difference to pace and mood of a story so I’d certainly recommend standing (or sitting) in your story world at different times to experience how the setting changes.

Hope you enjoy my Paris at night pics. 

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

A Writer Must Always Be Open to Possibilities

People are inherently good and kind, and if you are interested and open to knowledge and the experiences they are willing to share, you can learn so much about them, about humanity and about the world.

So many times on this trip, people have reached out to help me with my research for Beyond Belief. The people of Paris wherever we have been have been truly welcoming and wonderful.

Today, we were walking through the Marais district when a very kind Jewish man stopped us, and asked if I was Jewish.

I explained that my Jewish grandparents fled Austria in WW2 with my father (who was a teenager) and came to Australia where I was born. But as I told him, I was not raised as a Jew although I have cousins who were.

He had been in Paris for five years and was very happy to talk to me about his world.

I explained that I had been having trouble finding my way into a synagogue, but I was very interested to see inside one, and learn about it. Although I had been in a newer, much grander synagogue with my lovely guide Laetitia, it was only a very short visit and I wasn’t able to take photos or ask questions.

“Come, I will show you my synagogue,” he said proudly. 

He led us into ‘the 17’, a building up several flights of narrow stairs and the oldest synagogue in Paris.

Located at number 17 Rue de Rossiers (Rosebushes Street), the synagogue dates back to the 17th century when Jews were not allowed, if they could ever afford it, to build a monumental place of worship. 

Even during the black period of WW2 this synagogue remained open, and those of the congregation who survived the death camps, sought comfort there upon their return. 

It was such an honour to be invited inside this historic place … and to witness this man’s love for his people, his God and for humanity.

Another wonderful experience that I know will add richness to my story.

I’m going to miss Paris and its people and all the wonderful culture and experiences it has to offer.

But I will definitely be back … and I already have ideas for a new story … set in Paris 🙂

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

 

Full Circle

As my research trip to Paris enters its last week *sob*, I’ve been reflecting on what an amazing experience this has been.

I also have to pinch myself. I wanted to be a writer since I was seven years-old, and here I am in Paris researching for a book I’m writing. The kind of book I always wanted to write about truth and history and humanity.

I have met so many wonderful people here, heard stories that are ‘beyond belief’ and enjoyed blue Parisian skies almost every day. 

I’ve been into a mosque, a synagogue and a church. I’ve been humbled by the kindness of people and their willingness to help me with my story.

My new Parisian friend, Laetitia

I emailed the sewer tour people at des égouts de Paris to let them know I would be in Paris doing research for a book. And they have been truly amazing. They organised an English speaking guide, Laetitia who was so kind and so interested in my story.

After my tour of the sewers, she gave me a day of her time to help with my research, acting as a personal interpreter and guide. She speaks French, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic and her assistance was invaluable. I could never have uncovered the information and stories that I did without her.

I will be leaving Paris having made a true friend.

Being in Paris, researching a book I’m passionate about has been a dream come true. I’ve been so lucky with the people who have supported me in this … my long-suffering husband, research assistant, translator and all round wonderful guy, Michael.

And it was serendipitous to catch up with my Year 10 English teacher, Jenny Cosh, who just happened to be in Paris at the same time.

She was the one who believed in me and encouraged my writing career from when I was in high school, when becoming a writer was being actively discouraged at home because  ‘writing wasn’t a real job’.

Here I am living the writer’s dream … and I have been able to share it with the English teacher who encouraged me to have that dream. How lucky am I? How great are English teachers? For me, catching up with Jenny felt like things had come full circle.

It’s funny how important people in your life can turn up in the most unexpected places.

Has this ever happened to you on your writing journey?

Another big research day today, but more about that later.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Paris Secrets

I’m sad about what has happened in this beautiful city over recent days.

Paris is such an amazing place and there are so many picture postcard views and sights, wonderful people and opportunities to experience the diverse culture.

But it’s still a city like any other. There are well told tales and events in history, but you can walk past places and not even realise there are stories buried deep beneath the stonework, events that are now just a remnant in the ground.

Exploring history takes you to many distant and dark places, but it also reveals great tales of courage and hope.

Vélodrome d’Hiver

On 16 and 17 July 1942, 4,115 children, 2,916 women and 1,129 men were arrested and kept at Vélodrome d’Hiver in inhumane conditions by the Vichy government police, on the orders of the Nazi occupiers. They were later deported to Auschwitz where they were murdered.

Apartment building on the old site of the Vélodrome d’Hiver

Vélodrome d’Hiver, july 1942
source photo : Yad Vashem Photo Archive
crédit photo : D.R

The Grand Mosque of Paris

Behind these walls, in the sanctuary of this tranquil place, many Jewish lives were saved. The Jews who came or were brought here were given food and shelter. They were provided with fake documents marked ‘Muslim’ so they would not be harmed by the Vichy government police.

This was a spontaneous act of humanity by the Muslims who lived at the mosque, and the Muslims of France. People who acted simply because they cared about other human beings regardless of race or religion.

… if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” – Quran 5:32

The Vel D’Hiv Roundup

Behind this door, the lists were produced of Jews – men, women and children to be arrested and deported.

The Resistance

This peaceful marketplace was once the scene of torture for members of the Resistance.

Three doctors at this hospital risked their lives to provide members of the Resistance with medical supplies and treatment.

The Synagogue

Behind these doors is a beautiful temple of worship for people of the Jewish faith.

According the smiling lady who kindly allowed us to see inside, people slept at this synagogue during WW11 to protect it from harm.

Paris is a city throbbing with people and life. A city with so much history, beauty and sadness.

It’s a city rich with layers and inspiration for writers and other artists.

It’s a city well worth exploring beyond The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower and other popular places.

Being here is certainly enriching my understanding and adding layers of meaning to my story.

Happy writing and researching 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

 

 

Back to the Mosque – Story Flavour

One of the fabulous things about being in the location you are writing and researching about, you can always go back again.

The first time I went to the Grand Mosque of Paris I was quite frankly overawed by its beauty.

I was so busy looking and writing and taking photos that I kind of forgot to stop and smell the incense.

So yesterday I went back there to just sit and enjoy the ambience. To invite all my senses to participate in the experience.

I savoured the fragrance of the flowering wisteria. I saw the kind man feeding the pigeons.

I looked for the finer detail. I visited the library, and stopped to enjoy the moment of being surrounded by amazing books and history. 

I sipped mint tea and ate delicious pastries.

I discovered that it’s this kind of detail that turns your story location into a unique setting.

For me, being in the world of my story has added a whole new layer.

Have you ever had this experience? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Paris – Replenishing the Soul

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray

Just another one of those serendipitous moments on this trip.

The airbnb where I’m staying has a bookcase full of amazing books.

My problem … my French language skills are not good enough to read them.

In fact, the only book in English that I could actually read was … Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It was just the inspiring and welcome break I needed from trying to find my own words after a couple of confronting and emotionally draining days of research. 

How beautiful is Oscar Wilde’s writing. How stark a tale he tells.

And then of course, there’s Paris in Spring.

 

And there’s Paris.

Each day I find myself falling more and more in love with the place and its people.

My research trip to Paris has been made possible thanks to the generous support of VicArts.

Tomorrow I’m off to do the sewer tour to explore the world that lurks beneath Paris.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Shoah – Hebrew Word Meaning Destruction

Yesterday’s research took me to Memorial de la Shoah.

The Shoah Memorial remembers the 76,000 Jews deported from France, most of whom perished in death camps.

11,000 of them were children.

Almost two years before the Vel D’Hiv roundup, Jewish people regardless of age were required by new laws introduced by the Nazi regime to register their names and addresses at their local police station.

On 16th and 17th July 1942 that information was used to find them and round them up.

The facade of Beaune-la-Rolande internment camp

They were taken to transit camps in France like Drancy and Beaune-la-Rolande,

Model of Warsaw Ghetto

From there they were deported to camps like Auschwitz where they were murdered.

Cylinder symbolising chimneys of the death camps

The Final Solution as Hitler called it (his plan to exterminate all Jews) was not a random act of hate. It was at least six years in the planning.

The Crypt – symbolic tomb of the six million Jews who died without any monument or place of burial

The wall of names where those who were deported are remembered

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria