Franco File Friday: Janice MacLeod, author of ‘Paris Letters’

22 August 2014

How much money does it take to quit your job and move abroad? That was the abiding question author Janice MacLeod asked herself for over a year when confronted with the stasis and routine of her life working in advertising in Los Angeles. It was also one of the key elements to her personal journey to Paris in her memoirs ‘Paris Letters’, published earlier this year. What I loved about her story is that it’s so universally relatable – who hasn’t been in a position to question their life setup? Burdened by an accumulation of material possessions and a stifled imagination, it’s easy to see how a bonfired past and a fresh start could be an attractive prospect. Even more so when that fresh start involves new environs, new faces, new encounters.

For Janice, her new beginning in Paris led to the birth of new creative pursuits and a multi-cultural love story the likes of which she could never have anticipated. For the details of her life reboot, you’ll have to pick up her book. Until then, learn a little more about Janice below!
Describe what you love about France in three words.

Charm. History. Artists.

What tactics helped you adjust to your new home (and the administrative hurdles and everyday unfamiliarity)?

Saying Bonjour every morning to all the market people who met my gaze on my street, rue Mouffetard. I felt like Belle at the beginning of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, singing Bonjour, Bonjour, Bonjour to everyone. It helped me immediately feel like I lived in Paris rather than feeling like an outsider. I repeated this every evening with Bonsoir, Bonsoir, Bonsoir. Once they accept you as their neighbor they can be the most lovely, funny and helpful people.

Where did you go when you were writing the book to kickstart creative momentum?

First, when in the throws of the big writing of the book, I would go for a run each day in Jardin des Plantes. I would always come up with a way to move the story along, to piece together two themes or solve a tricky transition. Then I would return home, get ready and go to one of these cafés depending on the season and chair availability:

// TournBride at 104 rue Mouffetard. The terrasse is a perfect perch for people watching when the weather is warm.

// Café Saint Medardat 53 Rue Censier. The gurgling fountain outside creates the perfect ambient background for writing.

// Le Comptoir Des Arts at the Censier Daubenton métro. I’d go here when the mornings were cold. The windowed wall along the street acted as a greenhouse inside and kept me toasty. Great for cool winter days.

Angelina's Hot Chocolate

Favorite place to bring out-of-town guests?

I get an Angelina hot chocolate to go and we walk across the street to the park and sip it by the carousel. The hot chocolate is cheaper when you get it to go, plus you get an old fashion carousel to watch. It’s the epitome of charm and takes guests back in time to their own childhoods. Also, I always work in a boat ride, preferably on their final evening in Paris. It’s a great way to end their vacation on a high note.

Your most amusing or frustrating memory with the French?

Almost all of my frustrating moments with the French happen at the post office (La Poste). I recently needed an international stamp to send a letter. They gave me their world famous shrug and said they had run out and I was out of luck. Try back next week. I explained in very slow and articulate French that I found it impossible to imagine that anyone wanting to send a letter outside of France was out of luck for a week. Three of them conferred. They finally returned with audible sighs and said there was another stamp available but unfortunately it would cost two cents more. I’ll take it. Gawd! Common sense isn’t always so common at La Poste. They aren’t so lovely, funny or helpful no matter how many times I say Bonjour.

To be entered to win a personalized Paris letter from Janice, leave a comment sharing what you would do with your life if you started over.

Entries close August 28th. A winner will be selected at random on Friday, August 29 and notified in the comments section. Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to Jenna Francisco! You’ll receive your Paris Letter very soon.

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