Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Joyce Maynard speaking in La Garenne-Colombes

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Today I went to see Joyce Maynard speak at the Mots en Marge bookshop in La Garenne-Colombes, which is outside of Paris and close to where I live. I later learned that she is a friend of the owner of the bookshop, a lovely French woman who is passionate about books. It’s a joy to see her eyes light up every time she held a book in her hands and talked about it.

I follow Joyce on Facebook and was surprised when she said she’d be in France. At first, I planned on going to Paris to hear her talk because I enjoyed her memoir, “At Home in the World,” and one of her novels, “Where Love Goes.” I also have a couple of her other novels at home in Florence that I haven’t yet read.

My beau and I were the first to enter the quaint bookshop in the place (square) near the marché (market). The shop was narrow and had a staircase in the back that led to a second floor where large travel books were arranged on wide shelves. It was quiet except for the creaking of the floors when we slowly moved in front of the shelves to peruse the books.

People filed into the bookshop and soon it was full. Joyce arrived quickly after us. Instead of sitting at the round marble table, she sat on the table to address us. We stood behind a rectangular table stacked with paperback books. She spoke to us in French about her life as a writer, her past, and her memoir and novels.

At the end of her talk, I waited in line behind the other people who were getting their books signed. Everyone was enchanted to meet Joyce, as was I. I purchased a book of hers that was just published in France, “Une adolescence américaine : Chronique des années 60,” and then waited in line to ask her to sign it. She explained that it was the novel she wrote while she was living with J.D. Salinger.

When it was my turn, I smiled and told her she could finally speak English. She let out a big laugh and then joked with me that I could’ve translated for her. She asked a little about me and I told her that I lived in Paris and Florence. “Lucky you,” she said. She told me that she has a writing retreat that she holds in Guatemala. There was something about the way she talked about Guatemala that reminded me of Florence. The softness in her voice and twinkle in her eye made me realize that it was definitely a special place for her, much like how my beloved city is for me.

Meeting writers is always inspirational for me. Not only do I get the urge to read more, but also I feel inspired to bring the focus back onto my own writing projects. It was a treat to have Joyce come to France and hear her speak. I look forward to seeing her next year after a couple of her novels are published in France.

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