Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Write Your Heart Out in Provence

In all my years as a book lover I remember writing just a handful of fan letters to authors...and Richard Goodman was one of them. Something about his 1991 book, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of Francereally grabbed me. That was maybe 15 years ago and we've stayed in touch ever since. So I was delighted when Richard told me he was returning to Provence to lead a writing workshop this coming summer...and even more delighted to learn it would be hosted by the non-profit Maine Media Workshops + College (MMW).

The school is based in Rockport, Maine and was formerly known as the Maine Photographic Workshops. While I've only been lucky enough to take one of their workshops, I know many people who've studied or taught there and the school gets top reviews all around.

Launched in 1973 offering photography only, MMW has since added a wide range of subjects such as film/video, book arts, writing, poetry and more. (School president Meg Weston describes what they teach as "the art and craft of storytelling.") They have a full calendar of courses in Maine, plus travel workshops (like the one I took in Provence in the late '90s), a 30-week certificate program and an MFA program that’s been rated in the top 100 fine arts graduate programs in the U.S. They offer courses at all levels, from absolute beginner and serious amateur to working professional. Every time their new catalog comes out I see ten classes I'd love to take!

But back to Richard's upcoming workshop...

Called Inspire Your Writing in Provence,  it's devoted to "exploring how this delicious corner of France can stir the senses and inspire the imagination with its light, its scents, its sights and sounds." The dates are June 24 to 29, 2018.

Richard tells me he designed it for anyone who loves to write...memoir, food writing, travel writing, personal essays or anything else...whether they're deep into a project or just beginning. "This is a chance for you to experience 'the magic' with like-minded people and really just write your heart out," he says.

The group will stay together at the charming hotel Clos de Buis in Bonnieux, one of the famously gorgeous hilltowns of the Luberon region. (I mention the hotel in my recent Luberon story here.) Mornings will be devoted to talks about craft and writing exercises. "And of course we’ll read about the region, about its storied history—its art, food and wine," Richard says. "And we’ll learn about the wild, lovely country nearby." Afternoons will be spent exploring Bonnieux and nearby villages, taking in scenery, history, culture, lavender and more. Most students will likely arrive early or stay on for additional travel.

Richard is currently living and teaching in New Orleans but he has twice spent a year in the South of France: first in a small village near Nîmes and then in Sanary-sur Mer on the Mediterranean coast. His stories about French food and culture have appeared in The New York Times, Saveur, Creative Nonfiction, French Review and Grand Tour. He has taught at MMW's  home base up in Maine-- and will teach there again this summer--but this will be his first workshop in Provence. 

Well-known cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins took Richard's workshop in Rockport last summer and loved it. "This is a wonderful opportunity," she says. "Richard is a fine, provocative, inspiring teacher." 

All the workshop details are on the MMW site here; please note the discount for early booking. If you have questions, Meg (mweston@mainemedia.edu) or Richard (richardgoodman711@gmail.com) will be happy to help. 

Hope to see you this summer in Provence!

Photos: (1) The workshop takes place in Bonnieuxthe highest perched village in the Luberon. Bonnieux’s steep upper streets are lined with 800-year-old buildings, most of  them built atop older structures and ancient caves; from the peak you get a spectacular view. The village has an upper and lower church, so folks who lived in the valley, back in the day, didn’t have to climb all the way up top to attend mass. This is the lower or "new" church, built in 1870. (2, 3)  Students will stay at Le Clos de Buis, a perfect little hotel with a super-warm vibeThe photos show breakfast and a guestroom. (4) The famous 86 steps leading up to the 12th-century "old" church in Bonnieux...and fantastic views. (5) The hotel has a large lovely garden and pool. (6) Looking north from Bonnieux: the mighty Mont Ventoux, “the Giant of Provence,” well known for many grueling stages of the annual Tour de France. (7) We've all see a million photos of lavender fields in Provence but this is one of my favorites; see the story behind it here.  The Luberon's lavender fields should be at their peak--or close--during the workshop dates. (8) In the nearby village of Menerbes, local rosés on display at Maison de la Truffe et du Vin. (9) The irresistible antique shop directly opposite the hotel: resistance is futile. (10) The ochre cliffs of the nearby village of Roussillon. (11) Richard and his students in Rockport this past summer; photo by Gussan Jalil.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

Patricia Sands is one of the most peripatetic and prolific people I know. She seems to flit effortlessly between her homes in Toronto (main home) and Florida (vacation home) and then, once or twice a year, she pops up (for at least two months and often through home exchange) in the South of France, where she leads super-popular women's tours in Provence and on the Côte d'Azur.  She also loves to attend book signings, readings, authors conferences and other literary events in the US, Canada and beyond.

Plus, she's the happy matriarch of a large, Toronto-area blended family that includes seven adult 'kids’ and their partners and seven grandchildren (known as the Adorables).

And somehow, Patricia is also able to write books...lots of books...popular books!  Her award-winning debut novel, The Bridge Club, came out in 2010. Her second novel, The Promise of Provence, was followed by two more novels set in Provence...forming the bestselling Love in Provence trilogy. Her fifth novel, Drawing Lessons, is out this month. 

But wait, there's more!  In addition to writing for various Francophile websites, Patricia publishes a blog, a monthly email newsletter and a large number of social media posts--with beautiful photos--promoting things she and her friends feel passionate about. Her generosity with her online time is one of the many, many things I admire about her. She's constantly helping her followers and friends (both real and virtual) promote their own projects, their events, their blogs, websites, books and more. Those of us lucky enough to have found ourselves in her orbit can put up a post and be relatively certain she'll like it, comment on it, share it and/or re-tweet it, often at lightning speed. 

So now you know why there's no way I wasn't going to jump in and help spread the word about Patricia's newest book! Plus, the novel is set in Arles and the Camargue, two of my favorite places in Provence.  Plus, Patricia has generously offered a few copies for me to give away to my readers. Plus, this lady loves France as much as anyone I know!

Drawing Lessons is a portrait of a woman named Arianna who's forced to create a new life at age 62. She arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop "full of anticipation but burdened by guilt" because back home in Toronto, she's been living with the devastating diagnosis of her husband’s dementia and the heartbreaking decision she’s had to make. Encouraged by family to take time for herself, she travels to Arles to paint in the same fields of poppies and sunflowers that inspired Van Gogh. Gradually, she draws strength from the warm companionship and gentle wisdom of her fellow artists...and gives herself permission to embrace the life in front of her.

Sound good? Then on to the giveaway! Patricia is offering us two signed print copies (one for readers in North America and one for readers in Europe) and  two ebooks (to readers living anywhere).  To enter, simply leave a comment under "comments" below. Please be sure to leave your email address or we won't be able to reach you if you win; signing in with your Google or Blogger account is not enough. When it says "reply as"...a good choice is "open ID" (use your name) or ID/URL (use your name and your website). If you can't comment for whatever reason, just email me at provenceblog@aol.com and I'll see that you're entered anyway.

If you'd like to go ahead and order the book, you'll find it in all the usual places...and on Amazon here. You may also order it from any book store.

Meanwhile, you can learn all about Patricia's background, books, trips and other activities on her website here.   

Bonne Chance!