If You’re Going to San Francisco…

Thus far 2017 has been a bumpy ride. Last week I got some scary health news that thankfully resolved nicely. Almost simultaneously I got some wonderful news about my new novel, which I had entered in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, an arts outreach of the National League of American Pen Women. Paris in the Dark won First Prize in the Joanna Catherine Scott Novel Excerpt Category. Last Sunday the competition emailed me the news and asked if I would like to come to San Francisco to read from my novel. Yes, thanks. I would, I would.

I began Paris in the Dark this past summer in Paris, appropriately enough, where I had an apartment for a month. I liked to write outside a small neighborhood café called Cosy on Avenue Bosquet. I became friends with the barista and could sit for hours, writing on my notebook. Morning sunshine pierced the avenue’s trees arching above me while the neighborhood hum filled my ears like a symphony. These words take me there again and I wander up the avenue to the Pont d’Alma and my friends at the American Cathedral on Avenue George V.

For weeks I worked on who my narrator, a 31-year-old American, was. Of course, I polished and polished the sentences of this back story, which may not make it into the novel. Yet I know it informs Paris in the Dark in a way not possible before I knew how my narrator had gotten to the sidewalk on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triumph on June 14, 1940. She stood and watched the Wehrmacht march by and the occupation of Paris begin.

Winning a literary competition is validation. I have won my share, but winning remains sweet. So I will be going to San Francisco, where I have never been, having traveled more widely in Europe than in the US. For me, California remains an exotic unexplored land. And I can’t stop myself from singing, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. “

One Response to “If You’re Going to San Francisco…”

  1. Dominique Cahn says:

    Congratulations Ellen! This is wonderful news indeed. Now I have to get a copy of your new novel. I’ll need to expand my reading list over the next few years — though, lately, daily life in DC is itself surreal. So glad 2017 is off to a good start ( and that you are well). Hope you enjoy San Francisco. It is one of my favorite cities.

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