“The Book Auction, A Million Dollar Advance and Writing Sex Scenes.”


        An interview with Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light                                                    


                                       Mary Duncan

                            Director, The Paris Writers Group

 “Rapturous and razor sharp all at once, The Age of Light fearlessly unzips anything we might know of Lee Miller as model and muse and recasts her as artist, free thinker and architect of a singular and unapologetic life. This novel sparks on every page.” –Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin.

 “Sweeping from the glamour of 1930’s Paris through the battlefields of World War II and into the war’s long shadow, The Age of Light is a startlingly modern love story and a mesmerizing portrait of a woman’s self-transformation from muse into artist.”–Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere. 

Whitney Scharer, the author of Age of Light, spoke at the American Library in Paris on September 3, 2019 and the Petite Lumiere Librairie the following evening. Her historic novel focuses on the relationship between the Surrealist Man Ray and Lee Miller, a former Vogue model, who became a photographer and war correspondent during WWII.  We discussed the business aspects of her book, which received a million-dollar advance from Little Brown. This large advance was especially notable because Age of Light is her first book.                             See:  www.whitneyscharer.com









During our interview, it became clear that Whitney had broken some of the main rules of publishing. Our interview starts with those questions.

MD.   How did you find your agent?

WS.   “I didn’t have an agent until I finished my book. I met Julia Barer at Grub Streetwww.grubstreet.org a creative writing center in Boston, where I had been their marketing and development director for ten years. I had written some short stories, have an M.F.A. degree and belong to a writing group called the Chunky Monkeys. They are responsible for much of my success.” 

MD.  How extensive was your digital platform which usually consists of email lists, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?

WS. ” I didn’t have a platform. I’d rather write. My webpage was adequate, nothing more. Nor an email list consisting of thousands of potential buyers. I didn’t really have a blog, use Instagram, Twitter or have a professional Facebook page.  I’ve since learned that followers on Instagram.com and Bookstagram.com is one of the best ways to promote your book. A well-designed Facebook page is beneficial. I hired someone to design my new website. My publisher has also been helpful by providing publicists in the US and Paris.”

 MD. You had fourteen publishers bidding for the rights to your book. How is this possible? I understood that five large conglomerates own the main publishing companies in the world. Many of their imprints cannot bid against one another thereby keeping advances lower than in previous years.

WS.  “This is not always true.  Each imprint has a budget. Some larger than others. Of course, their budgets are determined by how successful their book sales have been. Most large publishers have some best-selling authors that support everyone else. My publisher, Little Brown, has James Patterson. The first run is 500,000 copies.  Random House has Harlan Coben. He has sold over six million copies in France.  Authors like Dan Brown keep the whole operation afloat.” 

MD  How did you determine which offer to accept?

WS.  “Julia Barer set up seven, one-hour phone conversations with the seven remaining publishers. Each one called me at home. I was really nervous and asked her what I should say. She told me to be myself, answer their questions and ask some of my own. The final decision was mine. She would provide input if I asked. It was craziest day in my life. Even crazier than giving birth.”

 “I thought I was going to have to sell myself. Instead, they were selling themselves by explaining to me their vision, marketing plan, size of their staff and my book tour.  Often, I was talking with one or two people but one publisher had twelve people on the line. They knew I could write. I think they just wanted to make sure I wasn’t insane.”

 We narrowed it down to two publishers. At this point, the main criteria for me was the editor. I didn’t want my book to become an orphan, which can happen if an editor is dismissed, retires or joins another company. The editor I selected had been with Little Brown for over twenty years and had an excellent reputation. My agent was very pleased with my choice.”

MD  How long was it from signing the contract to the  published book?

WS.  “We sold the book on September 20, 2017. Age of Light was released on February 5, 2019 – one year and four months. It also sold to fifteen foreign publishers. It took seven years to complete my book. The first two years were reading everything I could find about Man Ray, Lee Miller and that period in history. Lee is known for her quote, ‘I would rather take a photograph than be one.’ Also, her Holocaust photographs and self-photo taken in Hitler’s bathtub.”  https://time.com › lee-miller-the-woman-in-hitlers-bathtub-munich-1945

MD.  Were you consulted about the cover design?

WS.  “Yes. They sent me three or four samples. I made the final selection. They kept my book title.”

 MD.  You mentioned that you and another writer taught a workshop, “How to Write Sex Scenes.”  How was that organized? How many people attended?

WS.  “Chip Cheek, the author of Cape May, and I started the workshop by reading some really bad sex scenes. There’s actually a “Bad Sex in Fiction Award.” We selected some of those. James Frey won it in 2018 for a scene that takes place in a Paris bathroom.”  https://literaryreview.co.uk › bad-sex-in-fiction-award

 “Then we read what we considered to be good sex scenes from Broke back Mountain, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, Christopher Castellani’s Leading Men, which features Tennessee Williams.  Also, Castellani’s “All this Talk About Love.”

 “Sex scenes shouldn’t be gratuitous. They should make the plot move, improve understanding the character, be a moment of high drama, build sexual tension and have a reason to have to be in the story.”

 “At the end, we had a Q and A session. About sixty writers attended.”

MD.  How has your life changed since publishing Age of Light?

 WS. “I’m still building a platform and am writing a new book. It may be set in Palm Springs and Los Angeles in the 1920’s. I feel it’s important to give back to the literary community through mentoring and workshops.  Even though I’ve written since I was a child, I now feel like a writer and we’re all on a pedestal. My husband, daughter and I also have a new home in Boston.

 “I also keep meeting fascinating people. Did you know that Penelope Fletcher’s mother was a codebreaker in WWII?” (Penelope is the owner of the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore). 

 MD. If you could ask Lee Miller a question, what would it be?

 WS. “Lee had a son after WWII. Anthony Penrose was raised mainly by a nanny. I’d like to know how Lee felt about being a mother.”

We finished our Grand Mariner Souffles and walked out into the cool Paris air. Whitney flew back to Boston the next day to embark on her US book tour.


Location of Interview:  Josephine Chez Dumonet                                                   117 rue du Cherche-Midi,  Paris, France 75006.    September 5, 2019

 Whitney Scharer and numerous authors, who have spoken at the American Library in Paris and Shakespeare and Company, are also available on youtube.com. Perfect for viewing while on the treadmill or drinking a glass of wine.

Best regards,                                                                                                                Mary Duncan                                                                              www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-duncan                                            www.pariswritersgroup.net                                                             www.pariswriterspress.com

Little Wonder Radio Plays: Download free radio shorts by PWG writers.


Little Wonder LogoWe are proud to announce the creation of a new radio station by Keith Crawford, one of our Paris Writers Group members.

Little Wonder Radio Plays, an independent production company, publishes full cast audio dramas from new and classic authors.  Each piece is around ten to twenty minutes in length, perfect for your morning commute or while you’re doing the dishes, and is recorded like a film:  full sound effects, professional actors, and plenty of action.

You can listen to the podcast through our host soundcloud:

Or as subtitled videos on Youtube:

Or via any number of social media and streaming outlets [click here]:

Or just pop the RSS code direct into your podcast app: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:435165690/sounds.rss

(If you’re reading this on your mobile phone and have a podcast app, clicking on that link should automatically subscribe you.  Otherwise, copy and paste it into the application section entitled “RSS Feeds.”)

To keep up with what we’re doing, check out www.littlewonder.website.  We release two plays a month, and have more than a dozen ready to publish.  What we really need now is to grow our audience.  Please take just a few seconds to listen, like, subscribe, comment and, most importantly, to share our work on social media.  Your support is our success.

We are also running a play-writing competition!  Send us radio shorts between 1600 and 2000 words long for no more than four actors.  Submissions are open from July 13 – August 30, 2018.  Full details can be found here [click]. 

If you would like to write for us, please enter the competition.  All longlisted entries will receive feedback, all shortlisted will be performed, and the winner will be published as a full cast audio drama.  Every entry will be read by the company director and if your work shows promise we’ll be in touch.  In the future you know where to find us:  at the Paris Writers Group!

Hilary Kaiser Launches French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier


war bridesHilary Kaiser is speaking at several venues in France and the U.S. to share the engaging stories of French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier from WWI and WWII. This new edition, which was published by the Paris Writers Press, tells the stories of 6500 Franco-American marriages that took place between French Mademoiselles and American soldiers, be they “doughboys” or GI’s.

These women, who came from different parts of France and diverse backgrounds, would later cross the Atlantic to join their husbands, settle in various corners of America, suffer culture shock, and adapt to marriage in a foreign land of postwar plenty with varying degrees of success. Despite the difficulties, like many other immigrants, they got on with it and survived. Most of them did, in their own way, live the American dream.

The American Library in Paris will be hosting Hilary on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at 7:30 pm. Books will be available.

See Hilary’s personal profile in the Who We Are section of this website. French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier is available at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore Paris, D.G. Wills in La Jolla, and Albertine in NYC.
Also on Amazon.com.

Parisian of the Month: Mary Duncan


From I Prefer Paris by Richard Neham

I am happy to have my friend and organizer of the Paris Writers Group, which I have belonged to since inception in 2008, Mary Duncan, as Parisian of the Month. Enjoy this eye opening interview.

Neham: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Duncan: I was born and raised in San Diego, the land of sunshine, beaches, Margaritas and Dr. Seuss.

When and why did you move to Paris?
During the early 1980’s, I decided to live in Paris. In 2000, after many years of planning, I embarked on an early retirement program at San Diego State University where I was a professor, bought an apartment and now live between Paris and La Jolla, California.  Paris nourishes and energizes me. It’s intangible, but real.

When did you develop an interest in writing and literature?
Reading and writing have always been my favorite activities. I used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and smuggle them into the neighborhood library.

My Ph.D. dissertation, “The Effects of Social Conflict on Leisure Patterns in Belfast, N. Ireland,” paved the way for world travel and numerous research adventures to Nicaragua,  Tehran,  Berlin, Russia, Mexico and even Paris.  Curiosity drives me and it never seems to be satisfied.

How and why did you start the Paris Writers Group?
Since 1988, I’ve been a member of the San Diego Writing Women. After I moved to Paris, I really missed our monthly meetings. In  2008, I created the Paris Writers Group.  We started in my living room with www.pariswritersgroup.net

You’ve lived many lives in many places. You were once a Playboy bunny. What was that experience like?
I laughed out loud when I read this question.  I was never a Bunny. I had the boobs but not the legs. For over twelve years, I was a fairly regular guest at the Playboy Mansion.  Max Lerner, the late Los Angeles Times syndicated columnist and writer, was a good friend of Hugh Hefner. I was a friend of Max.

Staying at the Mansion was like living in a five-star hotel where you never received a bill.  Twenty-four hour room service, valets, maids, gym, grotto and pool, tennis, a game room with a billiard table, three private bedrooms for assignations, a vast film collection, a masseuse, all surrounded by a multi-million dollar art collection.  Dali, Pollack, Matisseand others adorned the walls.

In my book, Henry Miller is Under My Bed: People and Places on the way to Paris (2011), the chapter, “Breakfast at Hef’s”, has a colorful description of life at the Mansion. Actors James Caan and Tony Curtiswere regulars. My favorites were the writers and directors like Shel Silverstein and Richard Brooks. Some of the most stimulating intellectual conversations I’ve ever had took place around Hef’s breakfast table.

In my first life, I was a minister’s wife. I made up for those traditional years at the Playboy Mansion.

Please tell us about the time you spent in Moscow and the bookshop you owned.
In 1988, I met my husband, Yuri Loskutov, while participating in a Human Rights conference in Moscow.  After we were married in 1989, I began living there when I wasn’t teaching. Contemporary English language books were scarce. George Whitman, the late owner of Shakespeare and Company Paris, encouraged me to open a bookstore in Moscow.  I found a Russian partner who already had a small literary bookstore. We opened on April Fool’s Day in 1996 because everyone said we were fools to do it.

In those days, Delta let me bring three large seventy pound bags, filled with books and never charged me for excess luggage.  When Russian customs tried to charge me fees, I smiled and told them to keep the books and drink them with their tea.  They always waved me through.

From the first day, Shakespeare and Company Moscow became the literary center for Expats and English speaking Russians.  Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky and Masha Gessen, who now writes for the New York Times, were featured guests. We rapidly earned a reputation for our well-stocked lounge, which featured Starbucks Coffee, vodka and red wine.  Some readers would get tipsy while browsing for books. Yes, it helped improve the sales.

In the 90’s, Moscow was like the Wild West and I thrive in these dynamic, fast-moving environments.  We closed in 2003 after Putin’s corrupt bureaucrats and mafia made life difficult for small businesses.

If you could invite one writer living or dead to dinner, whom  would you select and where would you take them.
There are two. Erica Jong and David McCullough.  I’d take her to Jean-Georges in NYC. David McCulloughand I would go to the newly renovated Ritz. It’s not too late. They are both still living. I’m ever hopeful.

Who are some of your favorite French writers and books?
Colette and Simone de Beauvoir were fearless nontraditional role models. Simone chose her intellect over her heart and paid a heavy price in personal happiness.  Colette managed to have both.

After reading The Second Sex, I realized why I often felt out-of-step with society’s expectations. Beauvoir’s concept of alterity, living your life through others, revolutionized my thinking. I decided to forge my own path and not worry about the consequences. Financial independence was an important key to that decision.  My first article in the Huffington Post was “How I Retired Early and Moved to Paris.”   huffingtonpost.com/mary-duncan

What is the book you are currently writing?
The rue de la Bucherie is the focus of my current book.  It has a rich literary legacy intertwined with the history of the street.

You have a fascination with Henry Miller; you wrote the book Henry Miller is Under my Bed and have a large archive of original Henry Miller materials. What attracted you to Henry Miller’s work and your fascination with him?
Bradley Smith, a Time/Life photographer and writer, wrote two books with Henry Miller. As a result, he had an archive of Henry’s taped interviews, photographs and letters. I used to sit on the floor of Bradley’s home office in the hills of La Jolla, listening to Henry’s deep Brooklyn accent. Miller died in 1980, so I never met him. But I absolutely coveted those materials. After Bradley died in 1997, I purchased the archive from his estate as well as the rights to five of Bradley’s books.

Two years ago, Dorothy’s Gallery hosted an exhibit of the photographs.

Paris Writers Press Receives Grant for Translating Jean-Jacques Pauvert’s Memoir


The Paris Writers Press has received an award from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication through the National Book Center, to fund the translation of La Traversée du livre, a memoir written by the iconic French publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert (1926 – 2014). The new English translation An Odyssey in Books, is scheduled to be available by December 2015. Éditions Viviane Hamy published the original French version in 2004.

In his prize-winning memoir La Traversée du livre  (An Odyssey in Books), Jean-Jacques Pauvert recounts in vivid detail, his meteoric rise to the top of the French book world, which started 1942 in the mailroom of Gallimard publishers.  By the tender age of twenty, he openly published the banned works of the Marquis de Sade leading to a protracted legal struggle with the French authorities. A similar firestorm erupted when he published Histoire D’O (The Story of O) in 1954, a daring work by Pauline Reage, a pseudonym used by Dominique Aury. His other authors included Gide, Sartre, Bataille, Genet, Beauvoir and Breton.

Pauvert’s memoir also describes his being arrested and jailed for three months by the Nazis for his role as a courier with the Resistance.

An Odyssey in Books is a captivating story of a young man figuring out how to be a publisher as he went along and an invaluable social history of art, literature, politics, and Parisian life from World War II to the May 1968 revolution.

The winner of the 2005 Elle Magazine Reader’s Grand Prize, the new English edition, An Odyssey in Books, was translated by Lynn Jeffress.

The National Book Center or Centre National du Livre (CNL) provides grants for translations of high quality French literature.  Since 2001, the National Book Center has supported more than 6,400 projects for translation from French into foreign languages.

In 2014, approximately 600,000 Euros were allocated for translations. The CNL funds from forty to sixty percent of translation costs. The Paris Writers Press will receive sixty percent, the maximum allocation.

The Paris Writers Press, founded by Mary Duncan in 2011, is a small independent press committed to publishing books, which focus on lingering social and political issues.  PWP publishes literary fiction, non-fiction, memoirs and French translations that relate to France.

For more information contact:  Mary Duncan   pariswriterspress@gmail.com   www.pariswriterspress.com


Stage Left: the Smith Prize for Political Theater


By Timothy Jay Smith

It was 2006 and playwright August Wilson needed a producer. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner had died a year earlier, and it looked like the last installment in his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle chronicling the black experience in America during the twentieth century might be buried with him – or certainly there was a good chance it wouldn’t reach a New York stage. Americans simply weren’t in a soul-searching mood. They didn’t want to be reminded of the two useless wars they were fighting, or the bogus Bush Presidency, or rising sea levels. They wanted to be entertained and Broadway’s producers willingly abetted them. The Golden Age of musicals had arrived, with packed houses of theatregoers thumbing through Playbills for The Lion King, Hairspray, and Wicked, while dramas were few, frequently revivals, and always safe. Little challenged the public’s complacency or provoked a contradictory thought, and certainly nothing asked us to confront the burning issues of the day.

To me, it was like Nero playing his violin while Rome burned.Smith Prize - Greek Statue




By nature, I am a political animal. Sure I enjoy foot-tapping showstoppers, but I am equally entertained by books, movies and plays that make me think. And, it’s those thoughtful pieces that stay with me long after my foot has stopped tapping to the latest popular ditty. In 2006, there was hardly a play on or off Broadway that I wanted to see, let alone a play with serious political content. I decided to do something about that.

With the support of a handful of socially-conscious donors, I established the Smith Prize to encourage playwrights to write political theater. Arguably almost anything can be interpreted as ‘political’, so originally eligible plays had to, in some manner, address at least one of the questions: Who are we as Americans? What are we becoming? What are our global responsibilities? While those questions have been replaced by defining political theater as addressing concerns that effect the American body politic, the prize has always favored plays that tell intimate stories driven by bigger picture events.

Initially the Smith Prize was a $5,000 award evenly divided between the playwright and the first theater to mount a full production of the winning play. The intention has always been to get the plays on stage, not simply reward playwrights for well-written pieces that will never be seen by the public. From the outset, the prize struck a chord with playwrights, with close to three hundred submissions the first year. Though that number subsequently dropped as playwrights better understood the prize’s objectives, the range of topics remains impressive; among them, stories of war, racism, corruption, and immigration told from the perspectives of simple people whose lives are profoundly changed by political events.

All of the Smith Prize plays have gone on to successful productions, but none has made it as far as the 2012 winner, Grounded, by George Brant, a one-woman show about a fighter pilot who is ‘grounded’ after she becomes pregnant. Eventually she returns to the battlefield, but by then, her assignment is to fly sorties over Afghanistan by piloting drones from the safe distance of a trailer parked in Las Vegas. Grounded examines what is asked emotionally of today’s soldiers, who fight wars and drop bombs from thousands of miles away, yet see their destruction with an acuity made possible by technology which no warriors have ever witnessed before. Brant’s play has racked up accolades across the U.S., including The New York Times, and was selected by England’s prestigious newspaper, The Guardian, as one of the top ten plays in London last year. All the praise has been justified. Here’s only one passage from this tremendously powerful work:

Hard to go home tonight
The desert isn’t long enough
Still have bodies in my head
I circle the block a few times
Hope Eric isn’t looking out the window
Then I pull up and the door opens and the happy family greets their hero home from the war
Every day
Every day
Every day they greet me home from the war

It would be a different book
The Odyssey
If Odysseus came home every day
Every single day
A very different book

The Smith Prize has evolved since its inception, from an award for an existing play into a commission to write a new one. It has also doubled in value to $10,000, which provides a $5,000 grant to write a play based on the winning competitive proposal, $2,500 for the play’s further development through readings and workshops, and $2,500 to the first theater to produce it. Crucial to making the Smith Prize possible is raising $2,500 from private donors, meaning that every dollar donated is matched three-to-one by me and the National New Play Network, which administers the Smith Prize.

No doubt if Odysseus had come home every day, his story would have made a very different book. No doubt, too, if people thought about and acted on the critical issues of our time, the world would be very different. Ultimately that was my goal in creating the Smith Prize for Political Theater: to encourage people to act, individually and collectively, to make our world a better place for all of us.

For more information on the Smith Prize, or to make a donation to it, please visit: http://www.nnpn.org/about/programs/smith-prize. No gift is too small.

Timothy Jay Smith, a member of the Paris Writers Group, is also the author of Cooper’s Promise and A Vision of Angels.

Crystalens and Double Z Syndrome: When a Writer’s Eyes Go Bad


By Mary Duncan

This article was updated on June 5, 2018 at the request of a reader who recently had problems with Crystalens. She said she wished she had found my article before her surgery and asked how my eyes are five years later. Frankly, I’m glad I had them removed by my French surgeon in Paris. He did not recommend laser treatments or anything else. Just get them out.

I use +300 reading glasses. My eyes are a little blurred when I’m tired. Sometimes I have floaters. So far, I have refused any other treatments. Thankfully my eye sight was restored  and I’m still writing.  For full details, please read my article.


“Double Z Syndrome” sounds like the title of a thriller. But it’s not. It’s what happened to my eyes after what was supposed to be routine cataract surgery.

My eye doctor at a prominent clinic in La Jolla, California, recommended Crystalens by Bausch & Lomb, as being the latest lens for replacing cataracts with an added bonus. I probably wouldn’t have to wear glasses. Vanity won out. I’d been wearing glasses for over thirty years and the thought of getting rid of them was worth the additional price of $3600.

Prior to surgery I did some research. Crystalens were designed by Bausch & Lomb in 2004. They are designed to move with your eye. In order to do so, they are shaped like a pair of glasses with only one lens. That single lens has two arms attached with small hinges, just like regular glasses. It looks like a “U”. This tiny Crystalens is inserted into your eye and only takes around twenty-five minutes. Local anesthesia is used. The surgery was fast and painless. A piece of cake as we say.

However, I made a mistake. I only read Bausch & Lomb’s information which my doctor gave me. I should have researched the internet for “Crystalens problems or complaints.” Dozens of negative reviews filled the page. If I had done this prior to my surgery, I would never have agreed to use Crystalens.

The first surgery was on March 19, 2013. The second was on April 2, 2013. Even after the first procedure, my improved eyesight was miraculous. I was thrilled. With my doctor’s permission, I flew to Paris on April 16 to continue research on a new book.

All was well until the morning of April 26. When I woke up, my eyes were very blurry. I could still read but was very far-sighted. In order to see the 40 inch television screen clearly, I had to sit two feet in front of it. Subway and street signs were difficult to read unless I was very close to them. Poor depth perception made me very unstable on stairs. I couldn’t differentiate between six inches and two feet. I was unsteady on my feet and couldn’t see red and green traffic lights. I absolutely could not drive a car.

I couldn’t go out at night alone. I hired a young woman to help with computer related work, shopping and accompanying me to evening events. All work on my book stopped. I started using taxis and then due to less exercise, gained weight. As a partial solution, I ordered temporary glasses, which cost $650 due to the severe astigmatism.

The depression caused by my eye problems increased as my dependence on other people became a daily necessity.

After I emailed my doctor, he increased the doses of Durezol, a cortisone eye drop. Of course, he would see me but I was in France. In desperation, I saw a French optometrist. He said drops would not help. I needed glasses but it was too soon to prescribe them. He said my vision was too impaired for me to fly to California alone. I might hurt myself by falling over luggage or stairs. I sent the results to my La Jolla doctor who also recommended corrective lenses.

Bausch & Lomb France was notified of my problems. They quickly referred me to an excellent French eye surgeon at Cochin Hospital in Paris. He diagnosed the “Z Syndrome” in both eyes. Basically, the Crystalens had buckled and were at an angle. One of the arms on each lens had flipped over backwards, forming a “Z.” No one would say what caused it, but apparently this was not a new problem with Crystalens.



My options were a laser treatment called a Y.A.G.; inserting a capsular ring, trying to correct the hinge and reposition the Crystalens; removing the Crystalens and inserting a monofocal lens. All had possible serious side affects.


I wanted them out. I felt like I had two time bombs in my eyes.

On July 18, my French surgeon removed 90 % of the Crystalens in my right eye. He left in the haptics or end legs of the lens because they had adhered to my eye and were outside the capsular bag. He inserted an Alcon monofocal lens. My vision improved immediately but my eyes were still very tired due to the left eye. I still could not fly.

Since my surgeon was going on vacation in August, we waited until September 10 to operate on the left eye. Everything went well. I now use +300 glasses for reading. My distance vision is normal.

Fortunately, I have excellent U.S. health insurance, which covered most of my medical expenses. The total cost for a tourist using the French eye clinic and surgeon was $4000 per eye. Viva la France. The cost in La Jolla for the original eye surgery was about $11,500 per eye.

When I included the cost of the Crystalens that were removed, my out-of-pocket expenses were about $6000 for the temporary glasses, assistant and taxis.

My La Jolla doctor said I was a good candidate. My French surgeon, who performs about 600 cataract operations each year, had a different opinion.

Last year, he only used Crystalens on forty patients who had very small eyes. He said this leaves very little room for the Crystalens to move or form the Z Syndrome. He now uses photos of my eyes at medical conferences to inform other doctors about these risks.

Before you agree to any major medical product or procedure, be sure to search the subject on the internet, such as, “Crystalens problems or complaints.”  Do this for DEVICES as well as procedures whether it be for your eyes, heart, knees, hips, etc.  Do not rely on the manufacturer or even your doctor to warn you about problems. One reviewer recommended a class action suit.

Double Z Syndrome is not a thriller. It is very serious and I’m fortunate to have a positive outcome, apart from the cost, pain and suffering and the delay in completing my book.

The end.


Meet Our Bloggers from the Paris Writers Group


Have you ever wondered where to find the best chocolate in Paris?

Buy beautiful lingerie? Read about the latest literary events? Educate yourself about current French politics or even some scandal? Discover a secret garden? Preview a Louvre exhibit or visit an artist’s atelier? Are you curious about what it’s like to be a parent living in France?  Or why the French had to redesign the Statue of Liberty three times before it was acceptable to the American public? Have you dreamed about owning an apartment in the City of Light?

Then meet our bloggers whose articles and interviews are read by more than 25,000 subscribers. We live and work in Paris. We walk her streets, ride the metro and buses, drink in her cafes, sleep and eat in her apartments, admire her gardens, complain about her bureaucracy, the weather, strikes and high prices.  But for now, we wouldn’t live in any other place.

We write our impressions, opinions and recommendations so that our readers can share and learn from our experiences.

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Biographer Noel Riley Fitch Visits the Paris Writers Group


by Mary Duncan

If you are sensitive to the naked truth, then beware. Naked is the proper word to describe Noel Riley Fitch’s comments about Sylvia Beach, Anais Nin and Julia Child. This month, Noel who was our special guest at PWG, shared some surprises she discovered while researching her biographical subjects. She spent ten years researching and writing each of her three biographies, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, The Erotic Life of Anais Nin and Appetite for Life.

Samuel Beckett was her most intimidating interview. She sat across from him and thought to herself, “Oh, my God, That’s Samuel Beckett. He had beautiful blue eyes and was very shy.” When she asked him about James Joyce, he smiled and opened up. Beckett even remembered Joyce’s phone number. Noel taped all of her interviews and recommends we do the same. Another interview about Sylvia Beach was not as successful.

While interviewing Janet Flanner, Noel realized that Janet’s memories were blurred. She only salvaged one quote from Janet. Sylvia Beach “did not stop to see if her hat was on straight….She knew by feeling.”

Noel also interviewed Jacques Benoit-Méchin who was a translator and collaborationist during the war. He barely escaped the death sentence. When she arrived at his home, she was greeted by a maid who escorted her into his beautiful study where he was wearing a morning coat. Instead of trying to hide his collaborationist activities, he had a large display of the 1936 Olympics on his walls. He had insisted on Noel bringing a translator. As they left, he pointedly spoke to them in fluent English.

The erotic aspects of Julia Child surprised her. Julia enjoyed sex more than Anais Nin. Paul, Julia’s husband, wrote about their enjoyment of sex. Her appetite for food and sex were linked. Julia came from an affluent family in Pasadena, California. Both Julia and her husband worked for the OSS which was the predecessor to the CIA. They were clearly in love and had a very successful marriage. Noel said, “the only thing dirty about Julia was her pots and pans.” In an interesting twist, it was Paul who introduced Julia to Henry Miller’s books.

Nin wrote about sex and then did it. Nin used writing as a form of seduction. Noel interviewed one of Nin’s lovers who was recommended by Mary Dearborn, who wrote The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller. Nin’s lover had a collection of erotica that included a series of “one handed readers” that young writers wrote for one dollar a page. Prior to the interview, Dearborn warned Noel to bring along Bert, her husband. That was good advice Noel said. When she arrived, Nin’s former lover who was overweight, had his bare belly hanging over his unzipped pants that were held together with a safety pin. When she asked him what it was like to sleep with Anais Nin, he replied, “Nin would put her mouth on any warm appendage.”

Noel also learned that while in Paris, Nin aborted Henry Miller’s baby. As an adult, she had a sexual relationship with her father who abandoned the family when she was a child. Noel concluded that as a young woman, Anais was very naive about her own sexuality. “Once she started having sex, she never stopped…For Nin, seduction was a power trip.”

Noel has completed a biography about Marie-Louise O’Murphy, who was the young mistress of Louis XV. He insisted on meeting her after he saw Francois Boucher’s famous painting of “her bottom” (1752), that was painted when she was fourteen years old. Marie-Louise only escaped the guillotine because she was Irish.

Noel said being a biographer yielded some personal surprises. She met and became friends with biographers Mary Dearborn and Erica Jong.

Why I Write


by Maggie Dugan

I was seven months pregnant when I decided that it was time to start writing, really writing, the sit-in-the-chair-every-day kind of writing. Within a month I rented a tiny studio across the street from my apartment and furnished it with only the necessary items: a writing table and chair, a lamp, a computer. There was no telephone and no connection for Internet access.

I’d been a writer for as long as I can remember, it’s just that I’d been writing for everyone else. I was a journalist, and I headed up a small radio network. When I moved to Europe, it was with the intention to write. But within two-years I jumped back in the grind, working just as hard, churning out lengthy documents once again, for somebody else. I even ended up in Paris where it’s in vogue to sit in cafés and write, but I wasn’t really writing, not the kind of writing I wanted to do.

I didn’t want to let my child become an excuse not to write, and I didn’t want to resent her because I’d stopped chasing a dream. I knew having a place to go to write was the only way; if I didn’t have a room of my own, nothing would change. Two years later, a second daughter followed and there were more demands on me than before. But I kept crossing the street, climbing the narrow stairway to my little atelier and facing down my computer. Sometimes I’d sneak over at night after the girls had gone to sleep. With only the dim light of a table lamp and the glow of my computer screen, I could see my reflection in the dark window. I’d nod at myself, certain that whether my words were published or not, what my daughters would witness was just as important: seeing their mom making time to do what she loved, simply because she loved it.

Of course, in order to model this for them, I had to really learn it.

I had to learn how to put myself in the chair and just write, no matter what. I had to learn to pour myself on the page and live with an awkward and imperfect first draft. I had to learn – I’m still learning – to silence the judge that critiques my work too quickly and keeps me from putting it out for the world to read. The hardest part to learn is the patience; giving the process time, and to just to keep doing it anyway.

It sounds romantic, the life of a writer in Paris. Now that I’ve been doing it, I know what a grind it can be. Still, I keep making the trek across the street, putting in my time in my little studio. Sometimes it hurts to sit there. Sometimes it feels so natural that I can’t stop smiling.

I want to tell you something about my mother. She was a model of professional and domestic organization. She made a list of every product she would ever consider buying at the local supermarket, in the order of how they were placed the aisles of the store. She typed it up, made a hundred copies and bound them in a large note-pad that she kept on the kitchen counter. As we ran out of supplies, she checked each item we needed. On Thursdays, she’d tear off the top page and take it with her to buy the groceries. Nobody got in and out of that store faster than my mother.

She had a list for everything and it seemed her satisfaction was measured by how many boxes get checked off. Even opening the Christmas presents was something we had to “get out of the way.” After the first day of school she’d ask how many children were in my class, but she never asked what it felt like to be assigned to a different class than my best friend of the last three years.

As I grew into a woman, I wanted to share with my mother the deeper parts of my life, but I found she couldn’t talk about her emotions and she didn’t really want to hear about mine. I asked her what was it like the night my father died; she told me about getting the telephone to work with her hearing aid, and how the sheriff drove her to the hospital behind the ambulance. The pain and anguish of watching her husband die – and the loneliness of her life since – was left out of that recollection.

This morning, standing at the kitchen counter eyeing the clock and trying to get out the door and across the street to my own room and my own words, I’m caught in the web of things to do. Something is wrong with the vent for the kitchen fan, it’s raining and water is dripping in on the stovetop. I stand on a chair trying to wipe the excess water from inside the fan unit, thinking about how to find the phone number for a roof-top chimney repairman, remembering that I also need to call and make a doctor’s appointment for the kid’s vaccinations. I have to stop by the conservatory to organize the music class schedule and file the insurance papers for the musical instrument we rent from them. The other daughter needs a gift for an upcoming birthday party, and there’s a note in her cahier that she needs a specifically-sized binder notebook for school, by tomorrow. The girls’ ID cards must be procured at the prefecture, an ill-timed administrative errand that disrupts time I’d set aside to work, but urgent because of an upcoming trip. There are a dozen tiny things like this on the list, none of them on their own particularly time consuming, but their accumulation and interruptive quality stuns me. That long chunk of hours I’d set aside to write squeezes in on me like the narrowing walls of a horror movie; I finally get to my studio and just as I fall into the groove of concentration, it’s time to go wait outside the school and bring the girls home.

I understand, now, why my mother deflected her feelings with logistics and figures and the items on her list. She couldn’t afford the time it takes to feel. That was how she coped, how she kept the engine of our household going. I’m acutely aware of how easily I could avoid the feeling part of my life. There’s always so much to do.

That’s why I write. Writing means, to me, feeling my life. Writing forces me to dig deeper than the first layer of disclaimers and excuses, to explore the murky, feeling world beneath. The first words on the page start out as something cerebral, they evolve into a portal for raw and real emotions. Writing takes me beyond being a thinking woman, or a doing woman. It demands that I be a feeling woman, too.

Since I took my studio and started taking myself seriously as a writer, I’ve learned that being engaged in what I’m writing is one of its greatest gifts. I’ve learned how essential it is to feel the tiny pointed details of every day and connect them in the map of how I live my life. Writing is what spans the territory I inhabit, the bridge between how I wanted to know my mother and how I hope to know my daughters. The pivot point is in that chair, alone in the peace of my writing studio. It’s there that I feel the next sentence, the next paragraph – one by one – each day writing a page of a life that is fully lived, feelings and all.

Paris As I See It


by Thirza Vallois   

My first encounter with Paris, in the 1950s and as a very young teenager, came as a great disappointment. Landing at the Gare du Nord, the first Paris I saw was shabby and unappetising, light years away from the “City of Light”. “Where ARE the Dior models from Vogue Magazine?” I asked my mother in frustration. A cab driver soon whisked us off to a more flattering Paris, but even aboard a “Paris by Night” coach and horse-drawn carriages (long since gone), the city failed to live up to the mystique I had anticipated. No way could it live up to London. Based on that first visit and the few that followed, I have no idea what prompted me to pick up Paris for my student years. It would be interesting to psycho-analyse why I chose to settle here for good. There was more to it than just meeting and marrying a Parisian. It was more like the slow process of falling in love with someone one at first actively dislikes.  It is one of those perfidious tricks that fate plays insidiously on our hearts.

Not that I now love Paris unconditionally. I love it realistically and with eyes wide open. And sometimes I hate it.  Being a bit of a chameleon, it took me no time to have full command of the language and integrate into French life.  The combination of a good sense of observation and hyper sensitivity to a fault, enabled me to capture all the vibes, innuendoes and dynamics of the city. Some are nice; some are not. My love for beauty, music, art and literature, not to mention my keen interest in history, as well as current social and political issues, couldn’t find a better place   to feed on and thrive in.

It all just happened, taking its natural course. As did my writing. Unlike so many aspiring writers who come to Paris with that goal on their minds, my writing sprouted, grew and matured spontaneously, when the moment was ripe. Interestingly, it happened in Paris and not in London, although I much preferred London to Paris in those days. Paris, gruff and Gallic, exasperated me, whereas London was a smooth journey. Perhaps it was precisely because I was comfortable in London that I felt no urge to write about it. It didn’t antagonise me.   Paris on the other hand was so intense. Besides, so much in Paris was played out on the streets and public places. Of course in the 1960s London too  began to buzz, in a way more than Paris, but  it was more of a surface buzz. It lacked the depth of history and tradition, the intimate sense of community.  In Paris you may still have “your” own boulanger or butcher who will tip you how best to cook your meat. London is confidently on the way to New York; Paris is looking there too, but over its shoulder and more reluctantly.

Of course Parisians too spend time commuting, shopping, eating out and night clubbing, and Paris  too is gradually affected by homogenising globalisation, but for the time being it  hangs on to its creative individuality. Despite the rampant increase of franchised outlets, a typical Parisian street still has its own character. Can you tell one British high street from another? Unlike London, which was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666, and despite the major urban works under Haussmann and his followers, Paris has preserved a sense of historical continuity going back to the Middle Ages. Its building façades and cobbled streets can be read like a marvelous book, bursting with fascinating stories, some true, some legends. All are part of Parisian lore and history.   Add to this the fact that inner Paris is quite small and  compact and you’ve landed  in walkers’ paradise, to be explored horizontally and vertically simultaneously.

Take for example a leafy courtyard  you have chanced upon — a gift from heaven to be thankful for. How much greater is the gift when you can also imagine Leslie Caron/Gigi step down into that courtyard, or Gigi’s creator, Colette, emerge into the street from another charming courtyard, a couple of blocks away. Or Mozart aged 7, stepping out into rue François Miron in the Marais. Imagine him, aged 10 popping up further north, now the corner of rue de Bretagne and square du Temple, playing the harpsichord to the city’s most brilliant and glittering society. No trace is left of that venue, the Palace of the Grand Prior, the court of the illegitimate branch of the royal family.  Imagine yourself enjoying a Häagen-Dazs ice-cream on place de la Contrescarpe, then finding out you are sitting on the very spot where  five hundred years ago the land’s most famous poets  gathered under the name of La Pléaide and wrote the manifesto that would propel the French language into future glory.  By the by, you find out that up until then that status was bestowed on Latin alone, hence the Latin Quarter, the language of the university.

Despite the proliferation of facts and details, I don’t see Paris as their accumulation but as a whole. The details I glean along the way all come together, leading to the understanding of the city, my ultimate goal. Including current-day Paris. including the bits that are not so nice. Including the dark shameful pages one would rather push under the carpet. I see Paris as a gigantic tapestry spread at my feet, into which I weave the innumerable threads of my findings. Increasingly, I see Paris also as a mosaic of ethnicities (it’s not quite London yet, but it’s heading in the same direction), boasting along its central axis a string of  miniature worlds of exotic diversity. Finally, I see Paris as a gigantic puzzle, one of those that come in thousands of pieces and take forever to complete.  Mission impossible: There will  always be that other door you didn’t notice before to be opened, a hatch at your feet to be lifted, a building site  to remind you that Paris is a city in perpetual motion (oh, please spare us your highrises and other questionable projects), a never-ending story, a lifetime commitment once you become a Paris writer and get caught by the “bug”.

Social Media Etiquette : Five Tips for Writers in the Era of Twitter and Facebook


by Laurel Zuckerman, Editor of Paris Writers News

Writers are increasingly succumbing to loutish behavior on the social networks.  Here are a few tips for a return to civility in the #sm era:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Consideration for others is the key to polite behavior on the internet as in real life. If you respect one and only one rule – treat others as you want to be treated yourself – you will be fine.

Here are some gentle questions to help you to adjust your behavior:

1) Do you enjoy following tweeters who write nothing but  « my book is great » and  « buy my book » ? Why not ?

2) You have NEVER bothered to « like » your writer friends’ book pages on Facebook, but your book is coming out tomorrow and your publisher wants you to ask your friends to like its Facebook page… This is ok, isn’t it ?

3) You are far too principled to write a five star review on Amazon/Goodreads/Librarything… just because the author is a friend (in fact you would be personally offended if a writer friend asked you to compromise your integrity), but the PR guy at your publisher is hysterical : can’t your friends write five star reviews quick, quick?

4) Facebook has this great feature that enables you to enroll your friends in groups of your own invention. And also to send messages to all your friends, including daily announcements about your terrific new book. Zuckerberg wouldn’t have invented if he didn’t want us to use it, would he ?

5) Advanced twitter users keep sticking your twitter handle in their tweets so that they appear in your email. Sometimes it’s great and make sense, but other times it’s so clearly self-promotion you can’t stand it. How to tell which is which ?

Bonus questions : What kind of Facebook posts and tweets do you personally appreciate? Are grateful for as an author ? Consider a favor you would be delighted to return?

If you’re in doubt about the do’s and don’ts of social media, don’t worry: we all are!

My pet peeves are reserved – not for authors trying to do their best – but for publishers who are too lazy to do serious PR themselves (and as a result are pushing it onto authors) and for social media giants like Facebook who keep changing the rules just as we begin to understand them.

If there is such confusion concerning the lines between the personal and the professional it is mostly because that’s how $100 billion companies like Facebook hope to earn their profits. So beware. Social media is new and still largely uncharted.  I hope these few simple questions will help you to navigate safely and successfully.

PWG member sues Met for return of Picasso Masterpiece

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Last week PWG member Laurel Zuckerman, acting as Ancillary Administratrix of the estate of Alice Leffmann, filed suit against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to recover “The Actor”. The rare 1904-5 masterpiece by Pablo Picasso was owned by Paul Leffmann, a German Jew, for approximately 26 years until 1938.View “The Actor,” here.

For more information about the case, filed in NY see: Case 1:16-cv-07665


NYT:  Met Picasso Belonged to Family That Fled Nazis, Suit Says  By GRAHAM BOWLEY


Metropolitan Museum of Art Sued for $100 Million Picasso Sold by Collector Fleeing the Nazis


Suit Against Met Alleges that $100 Million Picasso Painting Was Sold Under Duress in Nazi Germany