Our focus is creative nonfiction. This means creative writing about real people, real places, and really good food! Can you then spin it into creative fiction? Absolutely.

As your instructor, I draw from my experiences as a journalist, editor, author, restaurant reviewer, university writing professor, and part-time resident of Paris for 14 years.

We use the rich resources of Paris: the banks of the Seine, early mists, evening-lit bridges, a short-skirted woman straddling a vélo, four old men tossing bocce balls, the scent of baguettes as you pass an almost military display of pastry. Your list, your experiences will rush you.

Photo of a word game at Paris Cafe Writing

What to Write?

So what do you pick to write about first? How do you start?

We start with the morning seminars. Walk up the winding stairs to the second floor of a café in the northern end of the 3rd arrondissement. Dress is casual, café crème is hot, we chat for a while, then you get a writing exercise.

One day you are guided with a prompt to write about a person. Another day, it’s a place. You write quietly and quickly on paper or laptop.

Whether you know the terms or not, we will play with metaphors and similes, drop in quotes, ramp up vocabulary. The goal is to create writing that is highly readable and personal: your observations and sentiments in France.

We emphasize description, place, illustration, perhaps allegory, a quote or two if it’s appropriate. We study passages from literature, explore voice, revise and polish for good leads, endings, and rhythm.

In the afternoons and evenings that we are not together, you are encouraged to pick a café and continue writing. Sometimes you want just 20 minutes, sometimes more. There is no penalty if you get distracted, because tomorrow we start again.

In the middle of the week, you meet with me for a half-hour, one-on-one session. We talk about your writing goals and review your writing line by line.

In the final workshop, you select one piece that you’ve polished to share with the others.

Antoinette at Paris Cafe Writing

Some of you will choose to arrange your France writing into a travel piece, a memoir, a profile, a nonfiction scene that you later spin into fiction, or just postcards.

Just postcards? When I first traveled to Europe, I sent such postcards to my parents with the understanding that I wanted the postcards back. I still have them. Priceless.

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