Sunday, August 11, 2013

    Paris, Tuileries, Librairie des Jardins, July 15, 2013.  Photo by Patricia St. John

Six-Author Book Signing at the Tuileries Gardens in Paris

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Fabled Day at the Tuileries

The sun streamed through the crevices of a cloud-laced sky on the Sunday of the book signing in the Tuileries.  To the left, just inside the gates from the Place de la Concorde, two rows of tables stretched under a large white canopy.  The first book to catch the eye from the book stacks on the tables happened to be none other than the Parks and Gardens in Greater Paris!  What a superb surprise!

For the entire afternoon torrents of people swept through the gates, frequently spilling over between the tables.   The authors were seated on the outsides of the tables so we could talk easily with those passing down the aisle between the two rows of books.  I had the good fortune of sitting next to an amiable Parisian who has been photographing European gardens since he retired from his day job.  Now he is working on a project in Italy about gardens acquired in the early 1900's by Americans who then gifted them to various American Universities.  It will be very interesting to see this next book of his.

Inside the book boutique, down the three stairs and at the end of the vaulted ceiling, a mural of live plants and flowers decorated the entire back wall.  Here two of us were invited to present our books to the 20 or so people who gathered there.  I screwed up my courage and gave five minutes in French and five in English.

What a dream to be in the first public park in Paris, and not only that but one that survived intact all the way from the 17th century!  The director of the bookstore, under the auspices of Parisian museums, reigned over the event as a gracious host, conferring on the event a festive air in the grand, age-old tradition of book fairs.  With the sparkling view of the Arc de Triomphe and the Tour Eiffel lending a mystical quality to exchanges with passers-by, time seemed to vanish.  Soon as afternoon’s flashing lights faded to twilight’s soft glows, a few of us pulled away from that enchanted venue and continued on to the following phase. 

Around the Place de la Concorde no taxies were in evidence, and it took several seconds to notice – to our great delight - the few little tuk-tuks clustered at the square’s edge.  We ended up riding, open-air and bouncing all the way along the cobblestones, across the bridge and down the street for the 3-4 blocks to a restaurant where we were joined  
• by our publishers who had come by train from Stuttgart to Paris
• another author writing a book on modern Parisian landscapes for them 
• our great friends who have just retired from the City of Paris parks department and land office 
• the charming author of Versailles garden books who was hired by our friend when she worked for the City of Paris and who introduced us to bookstore director, 
• the bookstore director herself, and
• a wonderfully humorous friend from Passy in the 16th arrondissement.
The vivacious young woman who organized last year’s Stanford Alumni gathering in the Rodin Gardens for my Parks and Gardens in Greater Paris was supposed to join us; sadly she had fallen ill.

Our friends had taken care of arrangements with the restaurant so that everything ran perfectly.  Glasses of champagne came first accompanied by "amuse bouche."  At the table the language-based seating plan proved to be important to the overall conviviality - French to French only - German to German/English, English/French - German/French, and so on.  Trying to figure that out felt like solving the Rubics cube, but all our revelers seemed to be happy to end up where they did, thank heavens!

The restaurant has the feel of old France to it, un-rushed, hospitable and friendly.  Because our friends have brought groups to dine here for years -especially when they were both working for the City of Paris - the service couldn't have been more cordial.  Friendly, accommodating and joking back and forth, the ambiance felt like a cozy dinner at home except that someone else was doing all the work.  Several guests at other tables were there to celebrate anniversaires and everyone joined in to serenade "happy birthday" at least twice, with all the waiters ringing the celebratory tables.

If reluctance to leave is any evidence of a party's success, a happy hesitance hung in the air as people left.  After everyone else had gone, we ended the evening by enjoying the afterglow with our friends for just a few minutes more over yet another glass of sparkling water.  Still rubbing our eyes, we're not sure this day really happened.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eureka! A Peninsula of Literary Salons

After picking up my pen over a decade ago, I looked for places where I could learn more about the book business, but also where I could connect with other bibliophiles.  In our current turbulent era when the world of the written word seems to be turning on its ear, the sanctuaries I have found come with a most ironic twist.

In the line of great traditions in literary gatherings - from staid 17th century salons to spontaneous 20th century sidewalk cafés – the modern rendition of literary meetings here seems to meld the two.  With numbers small enough to conduct conversations but large enough to create a buzz, colleagues gather slowly over wine and cheese and ultimately compose the audience for a presentation.  This model occurs repeatedly in the Bay Area.

The first crowd that I found in the San Francisco area consists of a broad mix of the publishing world, from TV hosts and master agents to pulp novelists.  NCBPMA comes together about once a month and puts on panels, speakers and events of general interest. The Northern California Book Publicity and Marketing currently meets at the Mechanics’ Institute Library café at 57 Post Street, very convenient to BART.  Anyone is welcome.  Admission fees are collected at the door, with a break given to members.

The Mechanics’ Institute Library puts on high quality programs in its own right, but also preserves the beautiful historic building which houses the events.  Tickets include a glass of wine.  Generous hors d’oeuvre usually complete the scene at the Library.

One newly refashioned literary lounge and library pulls its participants from Berkeley and the South Bay, as well as urbanites within walking distance.  The Book Club of California beautifully occupies part of a floor in the World Affairs Council building and welcomes members and nonmembers alike.  We discovered this erudite assembly when Stanford’s Green Library presented a superb “Treasures of the Archives” program there.  Primarily this group is devoted to the art press and California history.

The Rondel Society at Stanford’s Green Library itself brings cutting-edge thinkers like architect William McDonough into splendid hallowed halls, but also provides a venue for PhD students with myriad ideas.

My most recent discovery has been the Center for the Study of Western Civilization, just across the freeway from DeAnza College.  Lectures there are open to the public, cover a broad range of topics and draw on local expertise.  Its interior gravitas belies its commercial surroundings; inside the atmosphere evokes a European institute.

In the cases of all of the programs I’ve mentioned above, both size and setting afford yeasty situations conducive to discourse.  If you love books and relish learning from the like-minded, consider frequenting these oases.  In these locales we may be witnessing the spoken word reviving the written one.

If you’d like to take a look, I invite you to the lectures I’ll be giving on my new book, Champagne Regained, at the Mechanics’ Institute in San Francisco at 5:30 p.m. on June 26 and at the Center for the Study of Western Civilization in Cupertino two days later at 6:30 p.m. on June 28.   For more information please visit my website or

More immediately, if you’re in Chicago please join us at the venerable University Club of Chicago’s Learn at Lunch program at noon on May 24, or if you’re in Paris please stop by the illustrious Louvre bookstore just inside the gate from the Place de la Concorde in the Tuileries gardens at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 2.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hello, dear Readers,

Will you be in Chicago May 24th or Paris June 2nd?  I'll be giving a book talk on Champagne Regained in Chicago and signing Parks and Gardens in Greater Paris in the city of lights.  Needless to say, I am delighted to be back for another Learn at Lunch program University Club in Chicago - my 4th now.  Of course Paris, well, what can I say.  I love it!  Please let me know if you'd like to attend either or both -

On another wonderful news front, the Palo Alto University Rotary group has chosen East Palo Alto Kids Foundation to be one of its recipients for their Gala auction in May.  Part of the proceeds from my last two book signing events have been donated to EPAK as well by Books Inc.  It's a great group of volunteers that for 20 years now has targeted funding to specific classroom needs.  Congratulations to East Palo Alto's teachers and students! - and hats off to PAUR.

Hoping you're enjoying this gorgeous spring, and wishing you all the best,

Monday, January 21, 2013

February 9, 1-3 p.m., Champagne Regained book signing at Vino Locale.
Great news!  Palo Alto's friendly wine bar Vino Locale has invited me to sign copies of my new book there on the weekend before Valentine's Day.  Champagne Regained will be available for purchase, courtesy of Books Inc.  Also sparkling wine produced by a local vintner will be on hand for tasting, so please plan to stop by.  The new trio of owners bring outstanding regional wines to a warm and inviting setting at 431 Kipling Street in Palo Alto - Debra Szecsei, Jocelyn Alexander and Emily Mathews. Please call 650/328-0450 for more information.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here's wishing my good readers a most happy new year and hoping to see you at my talk at Palo Alto's Books Inc in Town and Country on January 15th at 7 p..m.  I love sharing such amazing information about France's champagne history - and even how it impacts our wine history here.
All the best,
Jacqui Stewart