I recently spent five days in Paris as part of the Paris Lit Up (PLU) mini-writers residency. This is as exciting as it sounds. It was the opportunity to take part in live performances, network with, and meet, fantastic writers, artists, and musicians, and the opportunity to teach. All this and the opportunity to be inspired by a very special city.
PLU is a community of writers, musicians, performers, and more, who come together to collaborate, support each other, and encourage the advancement of art. I applied for the PLU mini-writers residency in January and was asked if I could come over in March/April.
I have watched PLU on Facebook and Twitter for a long time, and through the night that I run I have tried to emulate their sense of inclusivity, and their desire to show off talent. I’d seen a while ago that they had the mini-residency on offer, but I’d not gone for it. A mixture of feeling like I’d not get it, and feeling comfortable enough in my own skin that if I did get it I’d be able to jet (train) off to Paris and strut my funky stuff on the streets where so many had strutted before.
I’ve long coveted writing in Paris, but I’ve taken less concern in the literary history of London. This is odd considering I’ve run a gig night championing new writers for several years now – but when I think about it, I’ve been drifting and need to up my game. Not to jump forward, but by its conclusion this trip made me commit to putting aside more time to consider what I have here, how I can best make the most of it, and how to share it with others. Of course it’s easy to forget your own history, and your own present, taking them for granted and so when what you consider the norm happens – you don’t realise that for someone else that it has been spectacular.
I had one of those spectacular times when a selection of the Paris Lit Up team themselves came across to England to launch their latest publication, Paris Lit Up No3, the week before I was booked to go to Paris. This led to me having the pleasure of their company at a bookshop in Clapham where we chatted, did readings, and drank several boxes of wine. I read a few pieces from my first book, and heard some outstanding work from others. It felt wonderful to be a part of that evening, everything that I considered being a part of a literary community to be – even if there was a Where’s Wally? (Waldo?) cardboard cut-out watching menacingly from the corner. I heard Shannon Cain read this superb piece (although this video is from another gig on their tour), I met Emily who was to host the gig I was booked to do in Paris, and Ed, Helen, and Steph who were all kind and lovely to me both on the night and during my trip to Paris. You can look at their pictures here – although I’ve liberated a few to make this piece more interesting.
We listened to each other reading, talked about the things that we loved about writing, London, Paris, about everything really, and all in that incredibly intense way like if you don’t get it all out by the end of your next breath the world will explode and you’ll never have said what you needed to. I didn’t know any of them so I was guilty of fluttering between conversations a tad, but they group were extremely generous with their time and thoughts considering they all had people they actually knew vying for their time too.
I was ready, I was set, and I was determined that I’d do my best to make a positive impression and then I’d be one of the gang and forever more there would be a star in the Parisian skies that I’d placed there with my words.