Pamela Poole is a freelance writer, blogger and translator, and founder of Francophilia.com, an online magazine, marketplace and community for Francophiles. Originally from San Diego, California, she now lives in Paris. I am a long-time reader of Pamela’s Frog blog. We met for coffee recently and I was inspired by her many roles and passion for language.
What brought you to Paris?
In 2005, an old friend, a Frenchwoman who lives in Los Angeles, invited me to her 70th birthday party. Somebody gave her a tiara and wand as a gag gift and, just as I was about to leave the party, she went and grabbed her wand, waved it in my direction and said, “I hereby turn you into a frog!” The other guests seemed to think that was weird, so she added, “She’s always wanted to live in France!” Her two sons, whom I’d never met, had also come to the party, from Paris and Lausanne. Her older son and I really hit it off that night and, after a year and a half of long-distance romance, I was living in Paris with him. It wouldn’t have happened without the Internet! We got married last year.
What keeps you in Paris?
My husband and his kids, who are in high school and live with us half the time. But I also have a great circle of friends and very satisfying professional life here. In general, I find France to be a more tolerant place than America, and I really love the way French culture celebrates creativity and values thinkers and thinking. I miss my family, of course, and some things about the States, like efficiency, our standard of cleanliness, smiling people, Mexican food, and ROSS! But overall, France is a better fit for me. Doesn’t hurt that I’m a lifelong Francophile too.
What books are on your nightstand?
My nightstand is a stack of books! Not much room in Paris apartments… I went on a classic lit kick this summer and read Tender is the Night (Fitzgerald), Women in Love (Lawrence) and Portrait of a Lady (James) all in a row. Before that I read The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (Dr. House), Oracle Night by Paul Auster, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson. I’ve been trying to read The Name of the Rose (Eco) for months and not making much progress… Right now I’m reading Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann for a book group a friend just started. I’m about halfway through it and not sure I like it. The writing is often powerful, but I’ve remained outside the story. Plus the structure and general feel of it remind me of the movie “Magnolia,” which made me want to jump off a building.
What advice would you give to IT-challenged people?
IT or Internet? For IT, maybe find a mentor who can give you a gentle introduction to ways in which a computer can make your life better. I’m using an incredible application called Scrivener for writing my novel. Very easy to use, and it takes the pain out of organizing your chunks (scenes, fragments, notes, research, etc.). It’s only for Macs though, and there’s nothing nearly as good for PCs. For Internet-challenged people, same thing. Find someone who can show you how you can use the Internet to express your creativity and find your voice. It’s done wonders for me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Follow your bliss,” which I heard Joseph Campbell say in the early 80s in “The Power of Myth,” I think. And “You’re in charge of your own reality,” which my first husband often said, and “This too shall pass,” which got my mother through a lot of tough times. I don’t know who said that originally. I heard it was Churchill, but then I heard he got it from somebody else. I guess this is wisdom more than advice, but it’s all helped. I can’t remember offhand the good advice I’ve received… Maybe because I only listen to my bliss!
How does living in a foreign country affect your writing? What does it add to your writing?
As I said, France is special when it comes to the arts. Here, because people have such respect for artistic creation, you never feel silly for pursuing a creative activity or that what you’re doing is a waste of time. It’s the act of creating that’s revered here rather than the outcome (money, fame). My experience living here has been that it’s sharpened my senses and challenged my assumptions. I’m hyper-aware of the world around me, which helps bring back the childlike wonder that time dulled. I feel like that heightened perception enriches my writing. But any major life change can have the same effect.
What is your favorite place to work?
Home. I do all my work from home. I need to be able to concentrate, and Paris is too crowded and noisy to work in public places. But libraries are too sterile. I also need to get up and walk the dog or do the dishes or something when I get stuck. Stopping for diversions like that usually gets me right back on track.
I don’t make very solid plans. Too many times my life has just been turned upside down in a matter of moments. Plans give you an illusion of control and it can be pretty brutal when they don’t work out. So I keep it loose, probably a defense mechanism I learned young (I went to 13 different schools between kindergarten and 12th grade). I work on my novel every Thursday, unless I have deadlines or something else that’s pressing, and I’ll keep working on it till I feel like it’s done. And I’ll keep doing my freelance writing and translating and working on my Francophilia project and taking things one day at a time. That’s the plan.
everyday splendor: http://everydaysplendor.blogspot.com/
Lipstick Geek: http://lipstickgeek.com/
Photo credit: Geneviève Pasquier