A Wee Bit Discouraged, But Writing Just the Same


Detail from Le déjeuner by François Boucher, 1739 (Louvre. Photo taken by myself, ParisKarin on 6 Sept., 2009)

It’s been an interesting morning.

Last night I could barely get to sleep as my brain was composing My Next Blog for this site. Since deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool for posting here, I cannot seem to find an “off button” for my head. Well, I could not, until this morning when I was getting ready to write.

I wish there were a way to put “anchor tags” in these posts on WordPress, for I would do so right here so that I could list a summary of each section and then link to various parts of the post. In my quest to post at least 1,667 words on this blog per day for the month of November, I feel like these posts are going to be unmanageably long, breaking every rule of “good blog writing” to be found online (like here,

“3. Write Less; Give the maximum amount of information with the least amount of words. Time is finite and people are infinitely busy. Blast your knowledge into the reader at the speed of sound.

4. 250 is enough
A long post is easier to forget and harder to get into. A short post is the opposite.”

Hahahahaha! Yeahhhhh. So not my blog.

And here,

ummmmm, as I was looking for “tips on writing good blog posts” the rest of the links I scanned said less about length and more about having accurate spelling and grammar. So maybe longer posts are not the horror that I think they are…).

Anyways, I will at least summarize here and then if there are parts you want to read, you can scroll to them. The main headings in this post are:

Computer Troubles: How my computer stopped working and how I lost very important photo files during this past week.

NaNoWriMo Concerns: An investigation into what constitutes “fiction” with reflections on Catherine Sanderson’s blog and book Petite Anglaise.

Tales of an Avatar: How I first learned about Paris through experimenting with fictional writing on a blog.

I have also put into BOLD they key sentences for each section so if you really do not want to read this behemoth in full, then you can read the sentences I have highlighted for you. I really also hope you know I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek about writing this introduction this way. 😀

Computer Troubles

Here’s the situation and why I am discouraged this morning. Yesterday, P Jiddy and I had an appointment with our downstairs neighbor, D, who is also our Computer Fix-It Guy, to upgrade to Windows 7. Last Tuesday, our computer stopped working altogether. Apparently, our graphics card burned out, and the computer refused to start up, instead giving four beeps upon pushing the “On” button, a long and three short, in a computerized kind of Morse Code for, “My innards are not working and I refuse to start!” D came up, interpreted the long beep followed by three shorts to mean “The graphics card is burned up,” and instructed us to get a new one, install it, and then cross our fingers that the computer would work once again. He also told us to back everything up on our computer ASAP. If indeed the new graphics card worked, he would be returning on Sunday to install Windows 7 for us. Installing a new OS means that the computer has to be reformatted, which means that everything on the hard drive disappears. For good.

With the purchase and then subsequent installation of a new graphics card, the computer did work, I caught up on emails and blog reading a little on Thursday and then spent the better part of Friday backing up files. Or so I thought.

In preparation for staring a blog here today, I took one of the discs labeled “Photos” and tried to open it. There was nothing on the disk.

Yes, I know the rules. I know one should ALWAYS check the disk that was allegedly just burned to see if in fact the files did get transfered to the disk. Buuuut, I did not. And all of my photos are gone.

That’s a bit of dramatic hyperbole there, for no, they are, technically, NOT “all gone.” One of the photos that did not get burned to disk is the one you see above, one I took at the Louvre in September. The majority of photos that did not get burned to CD/DVD are safely uploaded to my Flickr Pro account. This makes me very happy. What makes me unhappy is that I cannot simply load the photos back on to the hard drive of my computer. As far as I can tell, the only way to retrieve files from Flickr is to one-by-one open each photo page and download one photo at a time. I need to do a little research, for surely there is a way to download photos as a batch operation! I hope so. If anyone happens to read this and knows whether that is possible and, more importantly, how it is possible, please be so kind as to comment below.

Anyways, this put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for posting. It was a frustrating downer with which to begin the day. Still, 1,667 words call to me this day, and so I will forge on.

NaNoWriMo Concerns

After posting the two blogs prior to this one, I went back to the NaNoWriMo site and perused their rules for playing the NaNo game. I then went to my diary blog on Multiply and told my close circle of friends there what I was doing here.

I want to use NaNo as a way to write more on my blog. I write stories about my life. They are not really fictional except for the fact that of course in memoir-style writing I am telling a STORY, I am narrating what happens to me in my life. There are fictional aspects in how I care to embellish my life with things that are truthful without being dryly factual. I walk that line.

I then asked them,

Does this count? Should I consider it “fiction” or in fact am I kind of cheating on the whole thing? Does it really matter? Is there a non-fiction version of NaNo? Should I not do this for NaNo, officially, like with Word Counts and so on?

The feedback that I got from my friends is that I am doing “this” (using NaNo as encouragement to write on this blog) in the spirit of NaNo and that what I ought to do is JUST WRITE. That is the true spirit in which NaNo was created: to get people to JUST WRITE ALREADY instead of saying “Someday I will write that novel.”

Reading their encouragement, I commented back to them all,

I am going to aim for 1,667 words [per day] no matter what. I have been thinking about it some more, and I may decide to not post my Word Counts to NaNo and not *really* pariticipate. Orrrr, I might use this dilemma as something to write about. Does “memoir” fit more into fiction or non-fiction? It really is on that fine line. Remember James Frey? A Million Little Pieces?

I may also choose to fictionalize some things on my blog, like Ken says, to see what happens, to see if I can segue from just “writing” to “writing fiction.”

I am still excited and inspired to write though, and I think that is the heart and soul of NaNo. I am going to follow the spirit of the law instead of the letter, methinks. I think that’s what Jeebus would do. And James T. Kirk. And John Lennon. And Janis Joplin (WWJJD? LOL).

One of my ever-perceptive and encouraging peeps, who has already written two novels during NaNo and is working on a third this month (or is it three novels and starting a fourth? At any rate, I know she has at least two parts of a trilogy completed and is trying to get them published), commented in return:

Fictionalized Memoir is a valid NaNo project. Get moving! James Frey is only a dick because he didn’t disclose that he embellished the accounts he wrote about. (Mame)

As always, thank you, Mame, for giving me some perspective.

One of the things I was dwelling on last night as I was trying to get some shut-eye was the nature of fiction. In so very many ways, we ALL lead fictitious lives. This blog already IS a kind of fiction as it represents only that which I want to show to you.

I have been thinking a lot about this after reading Catherine Sanderson’s book and blog Petite Anglaise.

My online persona was wittier and sexier that I could ever hope to be. Petite anglaise’s words were scripted and edited, her every move choreographed, whereas in real life  I often stumbled over my words, and my humor was as hit or miss as the next person’s. My readers couldn’t see whether my socks matched or whether my highlights needed touching up, and they seemed to assume I was elegant and poised, as though some of the glamour they associated with Paris had rubbed off on me, too. I was not about to set everyone straight — I enjoyed  projecting this new, improved version of myself; this person I longed to be. Being popular as petite anglaise online took some of the sting out of feeling so lonely and hollow, so taken for granted at home.

And, over time, it was as though petite anglaise really did begin to write a part of me back to life.

(Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson. London: Penguin, 2008. Pages 50-51, UK paperback edition)

There is a lot I am not going to, that I cannot, write about on this public blog. It is, if anything, fiction by omission, kind of like those sins whereby leaving something out or sinning unintentionally is still just as much a sin. I am creating fiction as much as by what I leave out as what I put in, is what I am getting at.

Because there are tools at this blog which allow me to see how people get to my blog and how many views there are each say, and also the links which people click within my blogs, I know that no one yesterday went to this site: http://anglaise.blogspot.com/

It is a site that was set up after Catherine Sanderson got fired from her job for keeping a blog in which she used work time to write and in which she (barely) mentioned her place of work. Her regular site was so bombarded with hits because of the publicity, the blog site crashed and so a mirror site was set up. In this blog, Catherine wrote:

I have hinted, in recent weeks, at events which were unfolding in the background. Sinister events. Events I was not at liberty to discuss on my blog, just yet.

In the meantime I stuck to the safest anecdotes, seething with frustation at not being able to write about that One Single Horrible Thing which was preying on my mind, night and day, causing dramatic (and not entirely unwelcome) weight loss, panic attacks and sleepless nights, in the beginning.

The waiting is over, and I will begin by turning back the clock to my unexplained two week hiatus at the end of April this year. Starting with a post originally written on Wednesday 26 April 2006.

Jeebus. How terrifying, right? Can you imagine YOUR blog turning your life upside-down and inside out in this kind of way? (Well, in fact, mine kind of did. It is why I am in Paris, but that is, maybe, a story for another day.) There is a huge part of me that hopes this blog will quietly stay under-the-radar even though as someone who writes and loves to write and has blogged for almost as many years as Catherine would love to have acknowledgement for my writing, would love to have it employ me, would love to get some cold, hard cash that I have to do almost as much as breathe.

But at the price she had to pay? I dunno about that.

In her Expat-blog.com interview in January 2009 about what happened, Catherine states:

In 2006, my employer fired me for allegedly blogging on the job, and after the story traveled around the world, I was asked to write a book based on my blog, which has been published in several countries and languages.  It’s been harder to continue writing it now that I’m no longer anonymous, but it’s still very much a part of my life.

Wikipedia summarizes the outcome:

In April 2006 her[Sanderson’s] employer became aware of the blog, and sacked her, initially for gross misconduct, though this was later revised to “dismissal for real and serious cause – breakdown of trust”. The press interest as a result of this resulted in her identity being revealed by the Daily Mail newspaper. She took her former employer to an employment tribunal, where in March 2007 her complaint was upheld and she was awarded €44,000 plus legal costs. (Citations in the Wikipedia article at the link above.)

Catherine has since put blogging on hold.

I read an article a month or so ago about Liz Jones, a newspaper columnist who has made a living out of sharing every aspect of her personal life, showing little or no regard for the feelings or right to privacy of the partners/lovers/neighbours that she uses for material. It left a nasty taste in my mouth. Personal blogging was something I felt the need to do during a short, pivotal period of my life but, as I hope I demonstrated in my memoir, I realised, with hindsight, that particular path was strewn with landmines. I learnt some valuable lessons from the experience and will always be grateful for the doors which opened as a result.

But now I’ve moved on.

When my publisher asked me to pen a host of first person articles to coincide with the launch of ‘French Kissing’, I wasn’t at all keen. None of the pitches I sent, somewhat reluctantly, to various newspapers and magazines were actually commissioned, and while I’m sure this didn’t do sales of the book any good, I felt nothing but relief. By choosing to write a novel, I’d consciously taken a step away from tell-all, first person writing. Admittedly, some of the subject matter might have seemed familiar to regular blog readers – single motherhood, expat life in Paris, dabbling with online dating – but every scene and every last shred of dialogue was invented. I found it more enjoyable, making use of some of my experiences in a fictional context, once removed from my own life. Which is why plugging the novel by writing no-holds-barred pieces about my personal life would have felt like a leap backwards.

The part I am really interested in above is the part where Catherine writes, “I found it more enjoyable, making use of some of my experiences in a fictional context, once removed from my own life.”

I keep wondering if the same will ever happen with me, if I will ever make the transition from writing autobiographical, “fictionalized” memoir writing to a work of fiction.  Thinking on this makes me realize I have tried fiction posting before, and what happened with that experiment is why you see a photo of François Boucher’s painting Le déjeuner above.

Tales of an Avatar

In the spring of 2006, I started a blog on Blogger called “Avatar Girl.” I was living in Oklahoma at the time, married to my second husband, with a 10-year-old son and a six-month-old son, and had recently discovered blogging much for the same reasons Catherine started her own blog: “Being popular as petite anglaise online took some of the sting out of feeling so lonely and hollow, so taken for granted at home.”

I felt very lonely, hollow, frustrated, depressed, and taken for granted in a lot of ways, just as Catherine did back at that time. Add to that a business that the DeuxEx (as I refer to my second ex-husband) and I owned had to be shut down because of lack of capital, a bankruptcy resulting from the hole the business dug into our financial lives, and the fact that it was hard to put food on the table after I stopped working with the birth of DeuxEx and my son the previous November. I realize now those times were the definite beginning of the end for the DeuxEx and me.

It was also the year of my 20th high school reunion and my diary blogs on Yahoo! 360° revolved around feeling old, and fat, and stuck in god-loving but godforsaken Tulsa, Oklahoma.

One day, I decided to create an alter ego that could do, in the virtual, fictional world, the things that I wanted to do and go the places I wanted to go. I made up a blog for her and I began to write. In the description I wrote for the blog, I stated, “Join the adventures of Avatar Girl: Karin’s Alter Ego on the Internet. An Interactive/Collaborative Site – Please add your ideas to the story!”

I told my online friends to read the posts and then help me decide what to do next. PJ (with whom I now live and love here in Paris) wrote in this blog:

3) Aren’t you three hot avatars getting fed up of Jamaica? i hear there’s some rockin parties and your (i love ambigous ‘possesive’ pronouns) secret admirer is hoping you’ll come to Paris so he can observe you from afar.


As I wrote to PJ in an email around that time, in response to his comment on Avatar Girl, I took writing about Paris as a challenge as up to that time, it was NOT a place in which I was interested, nor about which I cared, and to which I really did not hope to visit, except perhaps in the context of visiting PJ, who was becoming a good friend via blog communication. I thought Paris to be a schlocky, overly-touristy, overly-self-important kind of place. I have since come to realize that in a lot of ways that assessment is entirely correct, lol, but that it is also part of the reason Paris is engaging.

For the stories,, I began to research the city of Paris, and learned a lot about Paris from the internet for the very first time in my life, not having a clue that I would one day be moving in with PJ and experiencing the city for real. One of the ideas I got from my best friend, Janet, was for Margaux, my alter ego, to visit the Louvre and see the paintings by François Boucher. Upon researching his paintings online in order to write the post on the Louvre, I found the charming scene depicted in Le déjeuner.

On September 6, 2009, I went to the Louvre with the express purpose of seeing the painting for the first time for myself, just as I had written about three-and-a-half years prior. It was a bit surreal.

I have visited other places in Paris because of Margaux Rai Lokelani Houston, such as the Parc Buttes Chaumont (well, that one more because I am just down the street from it rather than because of Margaux),  the Musée de Mineralogie, and Shakespeare & Co.

The End

So there you go. That’s almost 3,200 words there in my pursuit of a total of 50,000 in the next 28 days. I realize that a good chunk of those 3,200 are not words of my own, but quotations. I thought if I went ahead and wrote past the 1,667 for the day it would make up for the works I have cited.

I’m not sure where this is going to go. I had hoped to post more photos today, but have explained why that was not going to happen. I have hinted at my Paris story and how it is that I got here. I have questioned the nature of fiction. I am already thinking of what I could post for tomorrow.

If you are “out there” and really reading this stuff, would you mind dropping me a line in the comments? Even if it is just to say, “Karin, this really is just TOO LONG.” Hahaha! You’d be preaching to the choir, but if you need to get it off your chest, by all means, do so below.

Over and out.

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4 thoughts on “A Wee Bit Discouraged, But Writing Just the Same

  1. pariskarin

    Hey! I am leaving a comment on my own blog. 🙂

    I discovered there are 3rd party apps that will batch download from Flickr — the original size photos. Yay!! 🙂

    I still know there are lost photos, the original of my profile photo for this blog included, grrrr. But, I will still be able to have copies of the bulk of my photos from Flickr.

  2. PJ

    Sorry about the trouble you’ve been having with the ‘puter, my sweet.

    Fortunately not so much that it’s stymied your wit (the ‘morse code innards’ joke above cracked me up!).

    i, for one, don’t mind the long blogs, but then i could listen to you babble all day ;-). That said, i prefer reading about you and your life in your words… maybe cut down on the quotes???

    • pariskarin

      Thank you, Peej. I am glad that this read well, if long! 🙂

      “That said, i prefer reading about you and your life in your words… maybe cut down on the quotes???”That’s the old grad school student in me! Back everything up with data and information from outside sources. I know, this is not and should not be academic writing, but it is hard not to slide into it when that is the kind of writing I did for a long time. Also, I am really attuned to avoiding plagiarism. I knowwww, another academic thing, huh.

      I am really glad you enjoyed this.

  3. Pingback: The Writer’s Altar, a Parisian Leafy Mess, and Dog Poo « An Alien Parisienne

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