Thursday, December 14, 2017

An American Dream: Live In Paris

An Aspiring Writers' Dream: To Live and Write in Paris

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

Many forces came together recently to give me a one-year creative writing sabbatical in Paris. Aspiring writers, it can happen to you, too!

I grabbed the opportunity and ran with it. I wrote a novel based on my 25 years' experience in writing groups. 

People tell me they enjoy the humor, the characters grab 'em, that they "feel like they're in the hands of a master storyteller." To read a few chapters, please click on the book cover to the right. 



A few scenes are inside several Gothic churches in Paris.

It gets a mention or two.


She must be French! How about you? Got the urge to write in Paris? Comment below!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Paris Writers Circle: an American dream come true


An American Dream Come True!


One of my American dreams was to live as an expat for a while. My dream came true! I did a one-year creative writing sabbatical in Paris, and three months in Barcelona. 

Another American dream of mine came true: I capitalized on the experience and wrote a novel!

You can read a sample below.

Here’s the blurb:

"A café table in Paris. Four expat writers begin meeting to eat and to critique their work. At first they’re suspicious of each other, distrustful, secretive, envious, hyper-critical, resentful. Then their personal lives blow up—and they get to know each other… "

Read a sample on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2iqGEnv. Or read a sample below. 




Chapter 1

“I’ll give him the message, sir.” Anjali dropped the receiver into its slot with a clatter of black plastic.
That had been Monsieur Chaigne, rich as Croesus, her boss John had said. She must let him know about this call. But first she’d check the post. What was this official-looking envelope? Internal Revenue Service? What was that? Part of the United States Department of Treasury. Okay, trés importante—she knew that much rudimentary French. Her eyes ran over the document. She’d better tell her boss fast.
As she stood, her stomach rumbled. It would be lunchtime soon. After a month in Paris, she had begun to crave Indian food. She had been so disappointed in the Indian restaurants she’d visited so far in her new city. Aasha had told her that they dialed back on the spices for French tastes, but that there was a great place at Metro La Chapelle, on the north side of the Tenth arrondissement, in the heart of Little India. They’d go there this weekend, and she couldn’t wait for authentic flavors from home. Home…her mother’s homemade curry…
She jumped guiltily from her rêverie when the intercom blared.
“Anjali, come in with my calendar, please.”
Anjali fluffed up her fringe of bangs and grabbed the calendar, covered in high-grade leather and trimmed with brass. She left her desk, in a room with no window, with gray carpeting on the floor. The first time she’d seen it, it had seemed quite luxurious. Until she’d seen her boss’s office.
She entered John Germaine’s corner office in the Montparnasse Tower, with its view north and west of the city spread below. The Tour Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine, and Basilique de Sacré Cœur, all gleamed in the summer sun. She felt her feet sink into the deep pile of the beige carpet, and then she tripped over the edge of the red and blue Persian rug lain over it. As she approached his vast mahogany desk, she blinked at the light pouring in the windows. The view thrilled her—the first part of her dream had come true, she was in Paris.
In one hand, she held the calendar. With her free hand, she tugged the edge of her cotton blouse. New job, new country, new culture, new life—it was nervewracking. She’d lucked into a good position, but this man was impossible. Nice, but a bit loony.
She watched as John Germaine sat back, the leather of his huge chair creaking. He pulled at the white French cuffs of his French blue shirt. He wasn’t going to like her news.
“Sir, the Internal Revenue—”
“What’s on the calendar for tomorrow night?” John asked blithely.
Things had to be done in his order of events, she was learning.
Anjali checked the page for the second week of July. He refused to do this by computer. Worse, he refused to work with shared documents online. Version control between his five offices was Anjali’s constant nightmare.
“You’re taking your daughter to dinner, sir.”
“Oh, too bad.” John thought a minute. “Call Emily and tell her I can’t make it. Emily won’t mind. She can go out with her mother. Then book me at the Jules Verne. It’s up in the Eiffel Tower, you knew that, right? Potential client.”
He added, “Gotta keep my kid in private school, you know.” Then he winked.
“Okay, Mr. Germaine,” Anjali said reluctantly. She thought he should go out with his teen daughter. Anjali’s father had done that for her.
“I know you’re new, but please call me John.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“How’s life treating you? Big change from Mumbai, isn’t it?”
“I’m settling in, sir.” She knew he didn’t want details about her condescending aristocrat landlady, the pressure from her parents to go back to India, and how dire the Indian food situation was in Paris. Dire!
“Very good. By the way, how was your new writing group last night?
Anjali wondered why he was asking, but she smiled anyway. “Fun. All kinds of writers. We may never be published, but—”
“—Oh, I can do that. My Ph.D. dissertation in economics at Yale was published, you know. Maybe next time I’ll go with you.”
She sincerely hoped he would not. She had a character in one of her screenplays based on John. What if he spotted it? Nah, he was too self-absorbed. Seemed that way. But what if he wasn’t?
 “I’ve been tossing around a few ideas—want to run them by people,” John continued with his total self-confidence. “Novels—my buddy told me he’s writing one. Can’t let him one-up me.” John considered himself a Renaissance man, good at everything. Besides, how hard could it be? “Well, anything else?”
 “Here’s a message from Mr. Chaigne.” She handed him the slip. “And the IRS sent a letter.” Anjali said. “I tried to tell you—”
“What do they want?”
Anjali watched warily as John leaned even further back. It seemed there was something about being successful that made men want to lean way back in chairs. If he toppled over and became a paraplegic, she’d have to find a new job—not easy in Paris. She might have to go back to Mumbai without the second part of her dream fulfilled. To be so close and yet not see it happen would kill her.
John poised his chair on the edge of destruction and ran his thumbs up and down under the discrete paisley suspenders that strapped his broad shoulders.
“Sir, they want to talk about the company’s U.S. books.”
“No time. Just tell them we haven’t had a chance to do our tax return yet. They’ll understand.”
“But—”
“—They’ll understand.” John waved his hand, unconcerned.
“Okay, sir, I’ll tell them what you said.”
Anjali turned from his desk, then rolled her eyes.


Chapter 2

On the north side of Paris, in a former warehouse converted into a soundstage, in the depths of a conference room, Carol, a Brit, sat in a brainstorming meeting. Her brain was not storming. She’d been dry of ideas lately, except for the thought that she would be sacked if she didn’t speak up soon. Everyone else on the Trapèze creative staff was confidently shooting off characters, settings, and plots for films. But she had nothing.
“A Parisienne—scarf tied just so, stiletto heels, mini-skirt, tights—who wants, who’d die for, her next lover to appear tonight.”
That was Amandine, Parisienne, who sat relaxed yet commanding in décolletage, mini-skirt, thighs bursting forth in sheer black hose, and stilletos on her feet.
Carol looked at all the flesh that Amandine had on display, and she heard her mother quoting Coco Chanel: “Modesty—what elegance!”
Carol herself was wearing a cream silk Armani suit with a deeper cream silk blouse. Skirt fashionably short, but not cut up to her crotch. To be able to afford clothes like these ever again, she just had to come up with ideas. Ones that worked.
“A Louis Jordan type.”
That was Frédéric, with bulging blue eyes and adam’s apple. He was always eyeing the women.
“He’s debonair,” Frédéric said, “wants to keep his péniche afloat on the Seine. He’s desperate for money—the boat is a black hole. He cheats at cards, on his income tax, he beguiles rich women and tries to dupe them for money. It all backfires. In the end, in a storm, he watches the péniche sink into the Seine.”
Frédéric looked like a Bretagne boater himself in a horizontal blue-and-white-striped, long-sleeved tee shirt.
Carol coached herself, desperate to contribute. Come on, old girl, you just have to come up with something.
She felt her phone vibrate in the pocket of her silk jacket. She checked it as discretely as she could. It was her six-year-old texting her. “Mummy, when will you be home?”
Oh, my baby! Now she really couldn’t think.
“Carol, what do you think?”
That was Gregoire, the production company’s executive director. His character could be summed up in two words: tight suits.
Carol’s underarms itched against the silk. She crossed and recrossed her legs and tugged her skirt down, aware of Frédéric’s gaze. She knew she shouldn’t, and that if she did she would feel like an escargot, a garden-variety snail, but she couldn’t help herself—she looked at Amandine. As Carol could expect of an attractive Parisienne, Amandine was staring at her triumphantly, like a diner seated before an array of escargots roasted in their own shells with garlic and beurre doux.
Damn! She shouldn’t have looked. Why was she so bonkers as to do that to herself?
Gregoire crossed his arms. The room was silent. And Carol had a thought! It felt weak, it would be booed, but it was all she could think of.
“How about robbing the classics? Chaucer’s Alewife, and the sleek, elegant Wife of Bath, and the Knight, all updated?” Then she remembered, there was no Alewife in Canterbury Tales. Hopefully no one had read it. “They’re on a pilgrimage of some sort—in the Sahara desert!—to a remote shrine nearly covered in windblown sand?” Her imagination failed her at that point. She despised herself for ending her sentence in a question, like an American.  
Again, the room was silent. People were looking at her. Carol felt so vulnerable that she couldn’t help it, she looked at Amandine. Carol understood the message she saw in those eyes. Escargot!
Within a heartbeat of sending Carol her Parisienne deathray, Amandine was sending Gregoire an admiring look full of Bourgogne wine and roses.
“How about an older woman, Catherine Deneuve in her 40s,” Amandine said, and the brainstorming swept on.
They didn’t like my idea, Carol said to herself. I’m so sick of my ideas not being on target, out of step, ridiculous. They’re going to sack me if I don’t produce. What am I going to do?
When Gregoire decided he liked the idea of Louis Jordan on a péniche, with a Catherine Deneuve type for a love interest, the meeting ended, to be resumed in a week.
Carol felt as though she were staggering as she fled to her office—could anybody, especially Amandine, tell? She just had to learn not to look at that Parisienne, just like all the rest—with entirely too much self-esteem. Otherwise known as arrogance. She had to learn not to look at half the women in Paris, who cultivated a superior attitude and sent it like a deathray into other women’s hearts. She packed up her handbag, texted her daughter that she was leaving, and left.
The French who weren’t born in Paris were quite lovely, she thought. It was the Parisians….
She dragged herself back to her apartment in Le Marais, the trendiest neighborhood, in the Fourth arrondissement. Every footstep ached with self-condemnation. You’re not present for your daughter, you’re not good enough at your job, your ideas have dried up, and they’ll fire you soon. But I’m working so hard to provide for Louise, she countered weakly. Her inner critic said, “Humph!”
She punched in the door code and opened the massive, old wooden door to the courtyard. The palms standing in the corners in their huge stone pots looked relaxed, the red geraniums in first floor window boxes looked perky. Not at all how she felt. The scene was pretty, very French. This will all disappear if you can’t come up with ideas, Carol’s inner critic reminded her with satisfaction.
When she walked into the apartment, she heard Jeffrey’s voice speaking quietly. They’d lived together for two years. Jeffrey was a Brit expat, too, who repaired people’s computers in the offices of Orange, the telecom. And he minded Louise for hours at a time. She trusted him with Louise implicitly. She wished she could be with her little girl more herself.
Carol eased down the hall. Jeffrey and the child were sitting on the bed, leaning against the headboard, pillows and stuffed animals bolstering them, reading a picture book.
“That word is ‘c-a-t,’” Louise said to Jeffrey. They looked so ideal and cozy together.
“Very good, you got it, you clever girl!” Jeffrey ruffled her curly blonde hair, and they both looked up and saw Carol. Jeffrey’s face darkened.
Louise scrambled off the bed, her strawberry blonde curls bouncing.
“Mummy, Jeffrey and I are reading books! A fairy tells a princess, who has a cat, and, and—you’re home!”
Carol swept her into her arms and kissed her warm, sticky neck. Then she lifted her face to accept a peck on the lips from Jeffrey.
“Where’ve you been? She’s been anxious for you,” Jeffrey said.
“It’s seven, not that late.”
“Well, are you making dinner or am I?”
“Let’s order in.”
“No surprise, what you always say.”
His disparagement, a long-term feature of their relationship, upset her.
“Why can’t you be pleasant to me? You were home since five, you cook something.”
“Your daughter kept me busy.”
“Then order something in.”
“Mummy, come see my book.”
“Jeffrey, would you order?”
“Yeah, the usual, sure,” he grumbled and pulled out his cell phone.
Later, after Louise was asleep, Carol went online and Googled “writing group in English Paris” in hopes that being with a creative group, far away from her colleagues, would get her brain storming again. She wrote down the address and the time, closed her computer, stood with a sigh, stretched her back in her Armani suit, and went to bed.

Read the rest of this ebook -- and steep yourself in Paris -- 
for $4.99 on Amazon at 








American Dream: To Wander New York City

American Dream: Unexpected Beauty in New York City

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


Here's some unexpected baby beauty first. My grandson, at about one month old. Then we'll dive into the unexpected good stuff I found while wandering in NYC.





All kinds of peppers at the Union Square farmers market.

fashionistas
This dress has 400 forks, a bunch of spoons, and two labels (the bra).


This dress is made of latex paint. I love it!


A lovely autumn display.

A box of plants I stumbled upon. 
How about you? Do you like to wander? Please comment below!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Living in NYC: An American Dream

Sunday Afternoon in Central Park: An American Dream

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


On a fall afternoon in Central Park, you'll see all kinds of beauty that refreshes the soul for the busy week ahead.

First, here's a baby fix for your eyes: my grandson, two months old. In my opinion, he's a treat to look at.



Love that football belly!


Now to Central Park. Here's a mackerel sky, portending rain.


An allee of huge old trees. 

Is this a double wedding? Or are these girls modeling wedding dresses? One had sneakers on and the other red ballet flats. I couldn't tell what they were doing. Another NYC mystery!

This woman plays beautiful classical violin.

Columbus. He doesn't play classical violin.

This little girl stopped scooting around in order to listen to the classical violin music. We all need to stop, listen, maybe put our thumbs in our mouths and rub our tummies!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Views and Thoughts on Life in Brooklyn

American Dream: Doesn't It Get Your Creative Bug Jumping?

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


Lots of great singers, artists, writers were born and raised in densely populated places like Hoboken, NJ (Frank Sinatra) and Brooklyn (there's a bunch). There's something about lots of people, living shoulder to shoulder, that gives artists energy to draw on. 

I get a jolt of creative juice when I think of how cool the spaces are inside old brownstones like this. Probably artists' studios!

These shots are all of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where I used to live. Sunset Park is applying for status as an historic district, just as Park Slope has already done.

Here's a sampling of interesting rooflines to get your creative juices flowing.

Say, would you RT the tweet that brought you here? Thank you!









I included this because I liked the color of the bricks.

Single Women in Brooklyn NY
Here's the view from the park in the Sunset Park neighborhood. The park is aptly named Sunset Park. 


Living in Brooklyn NY
Same shot, different day and time. Please comment below: would you like to try living here?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

American Dream: A Brownstone in Park Slope

An American Dream of Living in a Fabulous Brownstone

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

The thing about great old houses is that moving from room to room feels so human, so humane, in the proportions that that designer gave the spaces. So these places look great on the outside but they probably also feel great to live in.


This row of terrific brownstones is footsteps from the 7th Avenue subway station, which I chug through every day.



Oh man, I could write terrific stuff in the corner room!

Look at the beautiful door, and the beautiful frame around it.

Here's another one. My heart is pounding, it's so beautiful!

Here's a great door with a great bay window above it.

Fantastique!

Here's a small part of a big stone house on a corner. I love the upstairs balcony covered in plants!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Today in Brooklyn

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft



Today I was walking in Park Slope and came across Community Bookstore at 143 7th Avenue. Very charming. Please visit.



At the back of the store, doors and stained glass at the entrance to the garden.

In the corner, a water feature, an ivy feature, and a cement wall feature. But this is Brooklyn. We do our best with cement walls here.

Here's the bookstore from the garden.

Then I proceeded past other brownstones. This one is ready for Halloween.

So is this one. It's a bit more to my taste.


Here on 9th Avenue is a glorious residence overlooking Prospect Park.

It's the far left one in this row of spectacular brownstones. I definitely have brownstone envy! How about you? Comment below! 


Monday, September 18, 2017

My American Dream? To Live and Write in Paris

American Writers Dream of Paris

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


How is it possible? Yet it's true! I lived in Paris for a year on a creative writing sabbatical. It was great! I went to the Louvre from time to time. The former palace is in itself a work of art. And then there's the priceless art on the walls. Yes, I saw the Mona Lisa. Here she is:



Possibly the most famous piece of art in the world.



I asked someone in the huge crowd waiting to see the painting to take my picture, "her and me together." Just then my eyes closed, of course. But here is one of my happiest moments.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

American Dream: Haute Couture

American Dream of Owning "the Best"

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


I wandered past Bergdorf on Fifth Avenue that night and found more high-end retail shops with fabulous-looking stuff.

I enjoy great design. I'd even say the world needs great design, of clothing, everyday objects we use to cook and to keep ourselves going.

But do I, personally, need high-design clothing and accessories?

No, but it sure is fun to look at. And poke a bit of fun at too.


What space ship did you disembark from?

So when the bad guys chase me and the fringe wraps around my legs and trips me, it's all going to work out okay?

Just the sort of brooch I need. Guaranteed to make my life better.

The jewels-leather-and-fluff combo is from Miu Miu.

High-end sign design.

I like the green leather handle, with orange on the reverse, from Fendi. How about you? Which is your favorite? Comment below! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

American Dream: Fabulous Design

What Is Going On Here?

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft


Bergdorf Goodman caught my eye last week (though not my wallet, thanks to my superior powers of clutching it to my heart).

I don't buy it, but I enjoy it -- the high-end design, that is.



Would I feel fabulous wearing this, or ridiculous? My mother taught me not to wear different patterns. Hmmm...I think I'll stick with my mother on this one.

Where did the window designer find these fabulous balloons? I want some!!

And this blouse keeps your boobs covered because you glue it?

Your chance to look like Truman Capote, all in white.

Kinda like this one. Though it's unwearable for anyone over 25.

A clutch that looks like a bit of Spanish tile. I enjoy my snarkiness! I hope you do too! Please retweet the tweet that brought you here! And answer this question: What does high-end design do for you? Comment below!