In September of 1996, I ran away. That may be overly dramatic, but yes, basically I put my normal, everyday, go-to-work-and-be-responsible life in storage and took off on an adventure. It was not as daring as rafting the Zambezi, nor as scientifically meaningful as studying the mating habits of killer bees, but it did have a certain romantic charm.
I'm not sure that all of my friends believed I would really do it. Some marveled at my taking off to do something like "we used to do in college." Some were more of the wait-and-see variety. Some thought I should just buy a house. As for me, I knew that nothing would enliven my life. I needed space and freedom. I needed a situation where I could not rely on the predictable. I needed to be forced to be aware of everything. I needed to learn again from direct experience. So I hatched a plan to take on another culture in a language I didn't know, in a country far away over the sea. I planned, gathered information, applied for a visa, and saved, saved, saved.
E-mail du jour: Letters from a year in France is the result of my attempt to share what I was experiencing in France during the year I spent there. E-mail provided me an immediate way to communicate my experiences while they were still fresh. Since I went to France without knowing anyone, writing these letters and receiving responses was an important source of communication for me.
The recipients of the e-mail were responsible for encouraging me to compile the letters into a book. I must admit, though, that the writing bug had bitten me while I was living in Antibes. Something about wandering around Cap dAntibes where F. Scott Fitzgerald had written Tender is the Night made me want to turn a phrase or two. While I had no illusions about my own meager literary talent, I did think my experiences were something worth telling.
I worried, however, that these letters might not be so engaging for readers who did not know me. When I returned to the United States, my friend Janet Baker encouraged me to do some public readings of the material I'd written. Getting positive feedback from strangers helped me greatly in deciding to continue with the idea of doing a book.
So, here it is, E-mail du jour, a chronicle, in correspondence, of one woman's adventure learning about life a la francaise. Enjoy!