Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Paris Proust Files: Inspiring writer, award-winning journalist, Beth Arnold!

Beth's writing needs no introduction. Its quality and excellence speaks for itself really, but I'm going to give her one anyway. What I love most about is... nah, I can't choose just one thing.

I love her style. It's professional, but personal and it doesn't take any crap from anyone. Jeeze, even her photo seems to scream "No-Effing-Nonsense".

I love her subjects and stories. They range from fashion to politics, and often include tid bits about my beloved France. They're funny, they're funky, they're close to home, they're far out... it's like a story-burrito. A mish-mash of delicious literary flavors that take me on a trip when I scarf her words as if they were my last meal.

Not to put too fine a point on it, she's one HELL of a writer, and lovely to grab a glass of Chardonnay with to boot. I highly recommend her blogs on Huffington Post, "Letters From Paris", and her own website. Check'em out, bring your appetite for curiosity and adventure :)

Thanks Beth for agreeing to do the interview!

Virtues: What do you like most about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too conceited? What makes you so flippin' amazing? (You know this is what people mean when they ask 'what are your strengths', don't look so shocked.)

Hopefully, I tell stories that my readers are drawn into, enjoy, and don't want to leave, because they're on the journey with me. Also, we human beings are emotional creatures. I believe I connect to my readers' hearts in some way. I aspire to connect with my readers on many levels no matter what I write.

Faults: What do you like LEAST about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too pathetic?
I can get carried away, repeat myself. Also, I don't like it when I'm a bit lazy and stay on the surface of something, when I don't dig deeper.

Chief characteristic: Define yourself or your writing in 1 word that I can repeat to other people when I talk about you behind your back, ie: He/She is so _______.

Men: Is there anything about Parisian men that doesn't make you roll your eyes? What do they do that makes you think, "Oh yah. That one's def from Paname!"?
France is a society that believes their manners are culturally important and, in fact, chic, but (generalization) most French men are not "gentlemen" in the way we think of that term. In the South, we call that good home training. And my point of view is that we need good manners to make our lives a little nicer and to actually work more smoothly. But how wonderful is it that French men have actually been trained to be a little more sensitive in terms of the art of life. It's not being a "pussy" to go to museums or to talk about the arts-- and for that to be an important part of living a real life.

Women: What about the Parisian women? Quite the bag of 'tude eh? Or are we the ones who require re-wiring?
In my humble opinion, French women are more restricted, for example, than American women. They're more conservative--which doesn't give them the mobility that we feel in life. Our American openness is a great gift that we often take for granted.

As for the whole French woman, fashion-beauty-thin thing...These are generalizations, of course, but not all French women are thin, chic, or gorgeous. Some French women have beautiful, impeccable style. Some have zip. What many women I see on the street must think of as "fashion" is a raggedy Wicked Witch of the West look to me. French women do like to buy products and take care of their skin, but the cosmetics industry worldwide is pulling the wool over our eyes and raking in billions of dollars by selling marketing concepts to women to freshen us up and young us up. "How to be like a French woman...You'll be like a French woman if you.....This is also what's happening with the idea that all French women are "thin" and "aging better." These are myths perpetuated with products, books, etc. to "sell" us something, which doesn't happen to have anything to do with reality. And these marketing concepts make women feel bad about themselves and feel like they must buy these products to "fix" themselves.

Of course, we want to look our best--but loving ourselves is so much more important than the corporate BS being sold. Why don't we ever learn that we're being manipulated for money?

Heros: If you could be any Frenchie who would you be, and why? (Good luck choosing. Between the painters alone you're totally screwed trying to pick one...*evil laugh*)
I'll say Eleanor d'Aquitaine. She was a woman who held real power when very few did. She was progressive, led an amazing life, and stood up for herself--stood her own ground. She may not have done everything perfectly, but she kicked some real ass. She did not go gently unto the night--but burned across the sky and lit some dazzling stars.

Emotions: What about Paris brings out the 16yr old drama-queen in you: happy, sad, mad, excited, love, hate; what brings out these emo-spaz-attacks? What do you love/hate most about Paris?
One of my loves is taking a walk in the center of Paris--by the Seine, the grand monuments, the tiny rues with charming shops. It is absolutely breath-taking no matter how many times I've been down the same path. Beauty envelops me. It seeps into my cells and permeates my air. I never fail to realize how lucky I am!

Places: In what Parisian hood would you love to live in? We all have our favorites! Why is it yours, what makes it all that?
A couple of my hates: This is again a generalization, but the total incomprehension of customer service drives me nuts. I don't mean in a cafe. It's annoying when a waiter is slow or snarky, but so what. I'm talking about when one really needs help with a problem--like with France Telecom or other big entities--and the help person is not at all interested in explaining something to you or providing a solution. He wants to tell you that whatever you need is impossible. Why? Well, because he can't think outside the box. It isn't allowed, and he must go by every antiquated and obscure rule. The French don't understand that customer service means you're supposed to help the customer--not compete with her.

And then there's the basic inconvenience of French websites. The French don't know how to construct websites that actually work. B.A.D.

Wishes: What typical French characteristic do you wish you possessed? (If you say ability to to eat mounds of Camembert and stay thin, I may smack you.)
I lived in the 2nd Arrondissement by the Place des Victoire for five years, and every day I stepped outside my door, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I live in the 20th Arrondissement now, and I've grown to love and appreciate its greenness, its young creator energy, the wonderful food that surrounds me, and being in a real neighborhood. But I have to say that the center of Paris is my spiritual home. Probably the 2nd (or 1st) Arrondissement would still be my favorite spot. Beauty, history, convenience. Ah...

The ability to make a gorgeous display--whether in the window of a boulangerie, a tiny boutique, a florist, or a green grocer.

Motto: What's your motto when in France? How do you minimize the hardships of life abroad?
Remember how much I have to feel grateful for. There is such an abundance! (And thank God for Skype and trips to the U.S. when I bring back a suitcase full of what I can't or don't want to buy here.)


  1. I love Beth Arnold's blogs, always new and fresh, reading what she has to say about Paris is (almost) like being there.

  2. I agree, thanks for the comment :)

  3. Way to go Shannon! Good interview of a great writer which of course makes me want to read more.
    Can't wait to meet everyone at the tweetup this month!

  4. Beth rocks! And, the nice thing about reading this is in my head is coming in with her lovely accent! :)

  5. Excellent morning. Nice article. It all seems to be wonderful cheap D3 Gold

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