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 

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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 

A Picture Can Inspire 1000 words – Paris in Spring

Paris in Spring is a stunning place full of vibrance and colour.

It’s just warm enough to sit in the park and write … and watch … and immerse.

Writing in the Square de l’Aspirant Dunand. The gardens are a tribute to Lebanese painter and poet Khalil Gibran.

So much of the old and the new. There are still so many of the buildings and the laneways that would have been around in 1942 when Ruben was brought to Le grande mosquée de paris to escape the soldiers.

The old and the blue

Just one sight, one image conjures up so many things for me … so much imagined about what life would have been like back then.

How even the saddest hearts might have been affected by Paris in Spring.

How does weather and setting affect your writing mood?

Feel free to share.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

p.s. Just about to hit 20,000 words. So much to write about, so much inspiration 🙂

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

 

Paris Immersion – Discoveries in Unexpected Places

Writers have to be flexible. We must conjure up creativity in the strangest and most difficult conditions.  I’ve taught myself to write in the dark, on my phone, in notebooks, on table serviettes and drink coasters, pretty much anywhere.

To be in Paris, in the world I’m writing about is harrowing at times, but it’s such an inspiring and rich experience. It allows me to add a whole new layer of meaning and texture to my story.

And over the last twenty-four hours I’ve been writing … a lot. In fact I’m up to around 12,000 words in my new draft. I’m deep in my story, living each day in my character’s world … Paris 1942.

Equipment for eating snails … don’t think that’s going to happen

Paris today is not so different … and everywhere there are reminders of where I am, of what used to be and what is now.

In truth, (due in part to my poor grasp of any language other than English) some of my research experiences have not yet yielded the information I need.

Shelves full of French books that I can’t read … means I get more writing done

But I’ve found alternatives in unlikely places.

Seeing the cellars beneath the mosque is one goal that hasn’t yet come to fruition. But when I was putting out the recycling the other day, I discovered a cellar underneath my very own building. One with steps carved into stone, with huge old wooden doors leading who knows where.

Of course I bought a torch and went exploring. I can’t tell you what I found because that’s in my book, but this cellar was exactly the place I was looking for.

For me, writing isn’t just about today’s story or yesterday’s story, it’s about tomorrow’s story as well. I’m always gathering information that could be useful in works to come … stories I might not even have thought of yet. 

So wherever I am, I’m gathering sights, smells, sounds and emotions to add to my scrapbook of experiences.

Have you ever found an important piece of research in an unexpected place?

I’d love you to share your experience here.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

 

Warning: Today’s Post is Distressing

Just as research can be inspiring and serendipitous and amazing, it can also leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the guts.

Yesterday’s research filled me with sadness and trepidation even before I arrived at the site of the Velodrome d’Hive.

Destroyed by fire in 1959, and now an innocuous looking block of flats, it was the scene of incredible horror during WW11.

The site is currently undergoing refurbishment, and a children’s garden is being built as a tribute to the youngest victims, but the plaque that stands amongst the building equipment and rubble shows the terrible extent of what happened here.

On 16 and 17 July 1942.
13,152 Jews were arrested in Paris and its suburbs, deported and killed at Auschwitz.
In the Winter Velodrome which stood here
4115 children,
2916 women
1129 men
were kept in inhumane conditions by the Vichy government police, on the orders of the Nazi occupiers.
May those who have tried to help them be thanked. May those who died be remembered.

In 1942 these frightened and traumatised children, women and men were rounded up and held at the velodrome for several days in summer heat with little food and water. They were kept there awaiting deportation to transit camps before being removed to Auschwitz where they were murdered.

There are no words to describe what it felt like to stand here.

Memorial sculpture

Almost within sight of the velodrome is another moving monument to this atrocity, a reminder that history should never be repeated.

The French Republic
In tribute to the victims of persecution
Racist and anti-Semitism and crimes
against humanity committed under the authority of the so-called
“Government of the French State” 1940 – 1944
Never forget

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

A Change of Scenery

Ruben stood at the top of the mosaic-covered stairs. Before him was the most beautiful garden he had ever seen.

Every day I am here in Paris I realise more and more, just how fortunate I am.

Paris is beautiful and amazing and fascinating and different … and I am so lucky to be here.

But more than the wonders of my surroundings, I am lucky because I have choice and freedom.

I can write or not. Any time I choose, I can go back to my real world, to a life that’s so much easier than what my story characters endure.

Kids entertainment in the park

Beyond Belief is a work of fiction so I get to decide things for Ruben and his friends. I also get to make choices as a writer and a person …. choices about my life.

People living in countries at war don’t have these options. War is relentless and cruel and people suffer through it every day of their lives … and die because of it. People fight to protect their country and their loved ones. They fight to find somewhere to live in peace and without fear. They fight for their lives.

It’s important that we tell their stories.

Father swan protects the family

Yesterday I stepped out of the intense world of my story to regain my perspective. I needed space to think and reflect so that I could tell Ruben’s story with authenticity, but with hope.

I went to the Parc Montsouris, and there amidst the beautiful spring vistas and everyday life, I worked on my far from everyday story.

Spring in Paris

Beyond Belief is a story I am compelled to tell. It’s a relatively untold chapter in history and it’s a tribute to courage and the human spirit, and to people who helped each other in time of need regardless of race or religion.

If you’d like to share your experiences about how you balance life and writing about difficult themes or topics, I’d love to hear from you.

Feel free to share in the comments section of this post.

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Trees of Hope and Strength

Mama held him at arm’s length. “You must be strong like the cedars, and the pine trees in in Le Jardin des Plantes. You must not bend like a sapling in the wind. Promise me, Ruben that you will stand tall and fight for what is right no matter what. You must never give up.”

In the version of my manuscript, Beyond Belief, written before I went to Paris, this is what Mama says to Ruben when she drops him off at the Grand Mosque of Paris to keep him safe.

So I was astonished to discover when I got here that Le Jardin des Plantes was so close to the mosque, just across the street in fact … on the other side of Rue Linné.

Trees from Jardin des Plantes visible over the wall of the Paris Mosque

I had stumbled upon Le Jardin des Plantes when I Googled ‘Tall trees that grow in Paris’. I wanted the tree to be a symbol of hope and strength for Ruben. Something of the outside world that might be visible or that he would remember whilst at the mosque.

Tall straight trees in Le Jardin des Plantes

Now here I was, standing in the courtyard looking up at a tall tree from Le Jardin des Plantes as it peered over the walls of the Le Grande Mosquée de Paris.

Le Jardin des Plantes was founded in 1626 and is Paris’ major botanical garden.It is one of seven departments of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle and covers 28 hectares.

Le Jardin des Plantes was another oasis in the heart of Paris … a city of so much beauty but the scene of so much sorrow.

It’s a stunning gardens … a reminder of renewal and regrowth … of stability amidst turmoil.

Seeing Ruben’s tree peering over the wall of the mosque was a symbolic moment for me. Have you ever had moments like this when you’re researching?

Feel free to share them here.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria