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.


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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

Franklin swam onto his first lists!

 

A WHALE IN PARIS made it on the Scholastic 50 Magical Books for Summer List!

“In this magical-realist adventure set during the Nazi occupation of Paris, a girl whose mother is lost at sea and a whale become beacons of hope. We find humanity in odd places, and feel we too know the mysteries of whales.” (Scholastic)

Our novel also made on the Barnes&Noble List 10 New Middle Grade Books We Love and the MackinVIA Community’s Great Speculative Fiction List.

Thank you all so much!

More about A WHALE IN PARIS.

Summer 2018 Publications

My latest stories are below. Thank you, dear editors, for publishing my work!

ONLINE

  • Amsterdam (online and print ) —7 micros/1 short story— in: Heavy Feather Review
  • Matter of Time”  —micro fiction— in: New Flash Fiction Review
  • Breathlessness”  —micro fiction— in: Moon Park Review
  • The next” —flash fiction— in: Jellyfish Review
  • “Limbo Land” —flash fiction— in: Lost Balloon, forthcoming
  • “Growing Pains” —flash fiction— in: The Sunlight Press, forthcoming
  • “Inner Thief” —flash fiction— in: FlashBack Fiction, forthcoming
  • Three flash fictions in: Atticus Review, forthcoming
  • “New Leader” —micro fiction— in: Cheap Pop, forthcoming

PRINT

  • “A Tasting of European Chefs”  —flash fiction— in: RipeningNational Flash Fiction Anthology
  • “How to Kill Your Grandmother”  —flash fiction— in: Flash: the short-short story magazine
  • “Field Trip” and “Tabula Rasa”  —micro fiction— in: Blink Ink

A Whale in Paris — in Paris

Yes! The Whale has arrived—and I’m in love! ♥♥♥

This is us in front of our home, and you can receive the Whale in your home, too, anywhere in the world.

I hope you will all send us pictures when that happens!

Clean Hands

I have a new story up at Monkey Bicycle!
March 2018


He’s only a park gardener. Shaves, makes coffee, watches porn, wipes up the mess.

She’s only a traffic controller. Does her crunches and pushups, skips breakfast, curses everyone on the bus before charging out into the street.

They both love Johnnie Walker and unsoiled sheets. They wash their hands before going to bed—soap them, scrub them, rinse them. They don’t want the dirt and grime of life to defile their sleep.

There’s a kid, too, their kid, although they didn’t make him. He’s only twelve and already no good.


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Interview: Farsickness Journal

Intro: “Paris-based novelist Claire Polders discusses how watery places—from Iceland to Greece to the shores of her native Holland—have inspired her work.”

Megan Harlan interviewed me for Farsickness Journal. February 2018.

“There wasn’t really one place that most captivated me. It was the concept of mobility, of flowing, of changing horizons, that made me fall in love with traveling. I’m not bound to one spot and not bound to one opinion. I can change my mind as easily as I can change my perspective, and the two often go hand in hand.”

Photo: Iceland, 2008

Read the rest of the interview here.