Open market in Aix-en-ProvenceI’m on my way to Paris. Strolling the streets. Open markets. Inspiration for philosophers, artists and writers. My dad always said if you want to do something, hang out with folks who are doing it successfully. What about if those admirable folks are no longer with us?

Names of writers and artists I admire—Victor Hugo, Cyrano de Bergerac,  Simone de Beauvoir, Picasso, Monet, and ex pats like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Gertrude Stein are drifting in and out of my thoughts. My admiration for French writers was reinforced during my years as an elementary teacher when I shared beautiful children’s books with my young students by authors like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Jean de Brunhoff. And I must include “In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines…” all of the Madeline stories, set in Paris although written by Austrian Ludwig Bemelman.

My husband and I will sip café at Les Duex Magots, and roam the streets of the Left Bank. What I want to take in is the focus and élan, along with the courage and confidence of the artists at Stein’s salon near the Luxembourg Gardens.

To meet with the purpose of stimulating and encouraging and challenging each other’s work— I envy the energy that must have come out of that gallery. Perhaps that is why I find myself organizing groups of writers to meet, write, share, challenge, and support each other. Writing is a solitary activity that I relish. I am at home in my own skin. I write in my office and the hours slip by. And yet too much solitary writing for me can turn into isolation. I get caught in the “I have to research/edit, or just finish this.” When is a piece ever really finished? Often that is one of the purposes a group serves. To share my work and have them say, “Hey, it’s done.”

Each Tuesday I look forward to my Eastside Writing Room. As I look around now, there are four of us writing, each having stated a personal intention for today’s two luxurious hours. A storyteller, a collector of songs with connected stories, a sojourner writing her way to health, and me looking around at this group of courageous, funny, talented women and feeling so grateful.

I’ve wandered from what I thought I might write about with Gertrude Stein. Paris has been said to be a breeding ground for new ideas. So perhaps that is a story for when I return.