Wednesday, June 29, 2011


French Foreign Legionnaires coming back from a...

Image via Wikipedia

The topic of beautiful women and writing came to mind because of a piece in the Huffington Post a couple of days ago.

It was by Best Selling author Dani Shapiro. Now, I have never met her, and probably never will – she lives in Connecticut and I live in Seattle - but twenty years ago, around the time I was being published for the first time, I was shown Dani’s first book, and a mutual friend suggested we meet up.

The encounter never happened, but Dani’s photo was on the back of her book and sent tingles up my spine. The woman was different, and she wrote beautifully. And she had that elusive quality.

Two decades and three marriages later, now apparently happily married with a young son, it is clear that she still does; and not only her books, but her blogs, are well worth reading – particularly if you are a writer.  Her advice is absolutely on target, and, in some cases, extremely amusing. I particularly liked her comment that if you want to write, don’t go into publishing, but get some experience of life first. Go work in a bar or something. And the French Foreign Legion (see above) is always an option.

Their uniforms are terrific; and you’ll lose a lot of weight. And their paras weight their green berets with a very distinctive sense of style and elan.


No, I didn’t enlist, but I did some weeks researching them in Corsica – a beautiful island - and had some interesting times with a woman I was deeply in love with. Yes, there really are bandits there.

It is not true that you can only write about what you know – in the sense of having experienced such events personally (imagination is a wonderful thing) but it is entirely true that it helps to have a few steamer trunks full of emotional and other adventures before settling down to polish your craft. And that you need to to top up your memory banks every now and then. There is no age limit to adventure.

Go read Dani Shapiro (yes, that’s her) and enjoy.

DaniShapiro - larger

Dani reminds me of an incident when I was in Bern, Switzerland, researching Games Of The Hangman. I was walking back to the apartment where I was staying, just a few minutes from the River Aare, when a truly beautiful woman in her early twenties, laughing, stepped out of a school about twenty feet in front of me, turned, said something in Swiss-German, and then slung her bag on her shoulder, crossed the road and vanished out of sight. She was young, gorgeous, happy, and as her camel hair coat swung open, I saw she was pregnant; and that her coat was lined with some crimson material. The impact of that flash of color was extraordinary.

I have never ever seen such a stunning evocation of  the joy of life than on that occasion; and I was so impressed that I came to a halt to just savor the moment. It was beautiful visually, emotionally, spiritually, and dramatically. I was entranced.

I never learned who she was, or what she did, or what happened to her. I never tried to find out. Yet I have never forgotten those few seconds, and I never will.

Life is always interesting, and it can be truly wonderful. And even in the worst of times, some memories are very special.

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