This is an interview that I’ve wanted to do for a long time! Lindsey Tramuta is a writer, journalist, and photographer who has lived in Paris for seven years. I love her blog because of her beautiful photography, great interviews with Parisians, and her interesting finds. The book Les Parisiens by Kanako, a young Japanese illustrator is just one example:
Lindsey, what brought you to Paris? What keeps you here?
School brought me initially but love has kept me here. Not very original a story, is it?
Lost in Cheeseland is such a great blog! Maybe you felt lost when you began it, but now you have hit your stride as a writer. How has your website and your writing evolved over the last four years?
The blog really began as a way to vent frustrations and make observations about the French. I shared personal anecdotes for some time before I started added restaurant reviews to the mix, followed by news and other happenings around town. Once I found my voice, I wanted the site to become something more – a window to my writing, to be sure, but also a resource for locals and travelers. I went from very basic snippets (and I’d even say quite unpolished) to focusing more on storytelling to truly offer the reader a glimpse into expat life, from both a culinary and cultural prism. Beginning in January 2012, I started writing for international publications – France Magazine, NYT T Magazine, SmartPlanet (CBS), NYT Travel, Conde Nast Traveller among others. I do believe my blog gave me the courage to aim higher.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in writing articles?
This is advice I’ve heeded from other authors – write write write! Whether you begin by writing in a journal or immediately on a blog, keep writing. And when you’re not writing, read. Read everything, even material that doesn’t directly relate to the topics you typically write about. It’s astounding how many creative ideas and techniques for writing you can glean from The Economist or hard news publications. And the best advice I think I ever read is to allow yourself time to be bored. It’s in those idle moments that your mind has a chance to wander and latch onto story ideas that may not have crystallized had you not given yourself that chance to recharge. This is a tremendous challenge in today’s digital world where a mere 5 minutes in line to pay for groceries leaves us tapping our feet and playing on our mobile devices, but it’s crucial. I haven’t mastered it yet (will I ever?) but I understand the importance of mental down time.
In addition to writing and photography, you run a business. Can you tell us about some of the challenges and rewards of Lola’s Cookies?
Lola’s Cookies was a project I launched with an American friend and fellow expat – we bonded over our shared love for American cookies and bemoaned their absence in Paris. French interpretations of cookies weren’t great and we wanted to do something about that. What we learned is that launching a business while having other jobs and financial responsibilities is far more difficult than we imagined, in part because of the onerous fees involved in starting a legitimate business in France (beyond the Auto Entrepreneur status). The greatest reward of all was exposing French people to our treats and seeing the reactions on their faces – instantaneous joy as though they didn’t think something so simple could be packed with such flavor. That reaction was worth all the stress, late nights and extra pounds.
What books are on your nightstand?
After going through a phrase of reading many Paris-inspired stories, I’ve been on a memoir kick. “A Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion was my earlier summer read (not exactly a frothy beach story) and I’m currently reading “Wave: a Memoir of Life After the Tsunami” by Sonali Deraniyagala, a heart-wrenching account of the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka which took the lives of her parents, husband and two young children. Crestfallen from grief and loss, she tries to piece back together a life all the while reliving the indelible horrors of the tragedy in extraordinary detail. I greatly admire the author’s fortitude and immediately took to her voice.
The ultimate question! Nothing is certain but I’ll definitely keep writing. Some of my work will be published in various publications this fall and then the trick is to keep it going. Either way, the ride has been amazing.