Winter Publications

Stories printed and stories online: I’m very grateful to the editors of Fiction InternationalElm Leaves Journal, The Sunlight Press, Flash Boulevard, and Spelk for publishing my work this season.

The following stories are available to read online:

December 2018

Author Talk: Fact, Fiction, Fantasy

On the challenge of writing a historical novel with a touch of the surreal.

My co-author Daniel Presley and I are invited by Gabrielle Griffis to come to the Wellfleet Library, one of a handful of American libraries that received a five-star rating for more than a decade.

Friends in Massachusetts and beyond, be welcome and meet us for an evening of music and literature on December 13!

A Conversation on Publishing and Editing

My co-author Daniel Presley and I are invited by Corey Farrenkopf to come to one of the oldest libraries in the United States for a conversation on publishing and editing!

Friends in Massachusetts and beyond, be welcome and meet us in the Sturgis Library on Cape Cod on December 12!

American Library in Paris Book Award

On November 8th, my co-author and I attended the American Library in Paris Book Award ceremony 2018.

It was held in the gorgeous Hôtel de Talleyrand where the Marshall plan was signed in 1948. By being there, we felt we inserted ourselves into the history we had written about in “A Whale in Paris.”

Although our novel didn’t win the award, we had a lovely time and are grateful to have been invited. Thank you American Library in Paris for a sparkling soiree and congratulations to Julian Jackson for winning with “A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle!”

Three New Stories

As I’m working hard on two new novels, one for younger readers and one for adults, I sometimes gratify myself by writing flash fiction. It’s such a joy and a great practice and a fabulous genre all by itself.

I’m particularly proud of these three pieces recently published in Atticus Review.

Whether it’s 1940 or now, whether you’re on holiday or going on a stroll with your husband who is slowly losing his mind, we all need to make moral choices. Do we acknowledge or ignore our conscience?

Inspired by real-life stories from my grandmother and friends, please read: “Dutch Neighbors,” “Battle of Brushes,” and “Lost and Found.”

  • update: The story “Lost and Found” has been nominated for Best Microfiction 2018!

October 3, 2018

Two New Stories

Two new stories of mine were published this week!

“Inner Thief” appeared in FlashBack Fiction:  

Her husband folds his hand over hers, the one wielding the knife, and she stops slicing the breakfast bread. He says they have enough. Their eyes meet. The word “enough” sounds foreign to her, as though it has lost all meaning.

Continue reading >>>

“New Leader” appeared in Cheap Pop:

This morning, I invented a new leader. I was tired of the old one and thought: I want a leader who is as loyal as my watchdog, Jodie, and as fierce as my cat, Joelle, and who possesses some type of magical power, such as breathing underwater like my goldfish, Jojo.

Continue reading >>>

Thank you, dear editors, for selecting my work!

Image courtesy of the Albert Heijn cultural heritage website.

September 16, 2018

Reader’s Questions (I)

Daniel and I were delighted last week to receive a kind and interesting letter. It was sent by a young reader who liked “A Whale in Paris” enough to thank us for having written the book. She also asked a few questions about how and why we wrote this novel.

Today I’m sharing my answers and the questions from Evelyn B (Denver, Colorado) with her permission and my gratitude.

Why did you choose to write about World War 2?

Because we think it’s important for young people (like you!) to know about what happened. And because we wanted to know more about France during that time. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and learned a lot about World War 2 at school and from my grandparents and stepfather, who all survived the war. They spoke to me about air raids, about hiding from the Nazis, about hunger and fear. But most of what I know took place in the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland. My husband and I wanted to learn about Paris during the occupation, so we chose to write about it, because that would require us to do research.

What made you think of putting a whale in Paris?

Our story began with the whale. Do you know those lazy Sunday mornings, when it rains and rains and you’re in bed or on the couch and really don’t want to get dressed, because the world out there is just cold and wet? Well, there are a lot of Sundays like that in the winter in Paris, and sometimes my husband and I just lay on our backs, listening to the rain and making up stories. In one of them, there was a lost whale (wrapped up in a sheet) making funny sounds, and a girl who befriends him and helps him to swim back to the sea. That was the kernel of our book. It took years of talking about that girl and her whale, before we actually believed we had a story that could become a novel.

Did you have to learn about whales to write the book? What did you have to do to learn what kinds of sounds Franklin would make?

We did indeed do research on whales, too, and were fascinated by what we learned. Whales use sounds for all types of communication. We now know that whales can sing to each other and that they use click sounds to identity one single whale to other whales in the pod. A lot less was known in 1944, so Chantal was guessing more than knowing—she couldn’t read a book about it yet, like you and me. My husband and I listened to online recordings of what people call “whale vocalizations,” and our imagination did the rest. Chantal probably couldn’t really understand Franklin’s sounds, but she did understand that he was lonely, lost, and homesick, and that he needed help.

What is your favorite food?

That really depends on the time of day and my mood. I often love the simplest things. Avocados, walnuts, blueberries, artichokes, mangos, zucchinis, dark chocolate, and salmon—I really do love salmon, smoked, grilled, raw, or in a quiche!

August 27, 2018

A Whale in Paris

A Whale in Paris — Review

The Historical Novel Society has reviewed “A Whale in Paris” — thank you so much! — and here’s what they say:

“This story … delves into the workings of human nature, and teaches young readers valuable life lessons, such as not judging people prematurely and the importance of keeping promises…. an excellent introduction to WWII for elementary readers, being both an exciting and touching story.”

Read the full review on the website of the Historical Novel Society.

Read more about “A Whale in Paris” here.

August 2018.

The Next

I have a new story up at Jellyfish Review!
August 2018

The sea is still, but the tarpaulin above the fishing boat moves as though touched by wind. Victim to curiosity, I stop scanning the cove for scraps and focus on the boat. Could be a harmless stray, savoring the stash of an unlucky sailor. Could be an armed man. I check for witnesses in the dusk and, seeing none, I rush down the jetty. Survival means taking risks.

Continue reading >>>

The Masterclass Report

Yesterday, along with some twenty other writers, I attended the workshop led by Viet Thanh Nguyen at the American Library in Paris. I was not alone in my nervousness. We writers exchanged encouraging smiles, then names, and soon felt more at ease. At least I did. 

Viet (who casually introduced himself without his last name) asked us to read “The Colonel” by Carolyn Forché. It’s an excellent poem (*) containing all the core elements of great writing and storytelling. For two hours we debated the piece, line by line, sometimes word for word, with Viet asking questions and leading the discussion. He explained what makes this poem work so well, drew our attention to each detail and turn. He made me love “The Colonel” even more than I had on my first read several years ago.

I’m familiar with literary analysis (I studied comparative literature in college), yet I’d never taken a creative writing class before. I learned how relevant a group discussion can be to my own practice. Interpreting the text with so many different readers at once gave me insights into how others pick up on clues (or not) and how they respond to certain techniques. 

Viet allowed me to share his advice with you all, so here are a few of his pointers in my own words:

– Titles and opening lines are extremely important. They should set the tone and draw readers in by either implicating them in the story or making them curious.

– How to decide what to tell and not to tell? Writing is carving the story out from a larger whole. It’s less about being thorough and more about selecting a few strong details. Readers, typically, don’t need to be taken by the hand; they can infer backstory and fill in the gaps. 

– The three act structure is present in almost every successful narrative work, short or long, even in the most literary novels. There’s no shame in reading a book on screenwriting to learn how to pace a literary story. Dramatic turns are needed at the right moments and should be present to keep readers engaged.

– Use the passive tense sparingly and preferably only when it adds meaning, when it reveals something about the situation at hand. The author’s choice between indirect and direct speech can also subtly reveal something about the story. What character is in charge? Who is taking action?

– Good images are both surprising (for example with contrast) and logical within their context. 

– How to recognize and avoid clichés in your own writing? Read. Read a lot, especially in the genre in which you’re writing.  

– Find an agent? Put in the hours and the work. Draft after draft. Write. Publish in literary magazines, even the obscure ones. Publish your pieces on your own blog (!). Then write some more. 

Thank you Viet and fellow participants for an inspiring afternoon, and thank you Grant, Audrey, Pauline, and (possibly) others for organizing this masterclass!

* I first read “The Colonel” in the anthology Flash fiction : very short stories edited by Tom Hazuka. Before I attended the masterclass, I didn’t know it was originally published as a poem. 

July 9th 2018