#Day 15: Douce France: Home Sweet Home

Douce France is a series of little stories about my trip to France after 4 years of absence. Coming back after such a long time has brought back to life some amazing feelings and childhood memories, the greatest source of inspiration to me.

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I have been away from home for 4 years but when I set foot on the French territory after my 30-hour flight, it felt like I left yesterday.

My parents picked me up at the airport. They haven’t changed much. Time has been treating them well. Dad has grown silver hair and his dark summery skin makes it look shinier. Mum is still the same, cheerful and pretty in her flowery dress. She looks even younger than my last memories of her.

On the drive home, in the outskirts of Paris, I catch a glimpse of a sad reality: a multitude of dirty tents and mountains of rubbish sheltering hundreds of refugees. I feel a pinch in my heart. But I don’t want to feel sad or angry. I am back home, in my beautiful country and nothing will take that away from me.

The house of my childhood used to be a huge farm. It’s an old two-story house, built of stone, a brown tile roof, some terra cotta floor tiles, and some beautiful long beams. Mum and Dad painted the blinds with a lovely pastel green like those typical houses from the South of France. There is a big shed, a huge attic, a cellar where I use to throw teenage parties and another smaller shed where Mum stocks all the mess. No wonder this house was the best place to play hide and seek! I remember being scared of the attic, full of dirt, spider webs and little night creatures that I could hear running around on the roof.

 

There’s also a fire place. I love that fire place. It reminds me of the letters I left there for Santa. It also brings back when Dad used to grill the chestnuts we picked in the woods. I can still hear the crackling sound and feel the sensation tickling my nostrils.

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The floor upstairs was the best place to run and hide in the dark nooks of the winding corridor. My friends and I would run like lunatics and scare off my sister and my brother. I can hear Dad yelling at us threatening the house is going to collapse.

The first thing I did when I got home was to check out my bedroom. It looked so small and not quite like the little realm I used to rule when I was a kid! My “subjects” (aka teddy bears) are still there, sitting on my pink velvet couch and looking at me with their dusty eyes. I remember when Mum asked me to tidy up my bedroom in the promise of a reward, I would cram all my toys underneath that couch in 50 seconds.

In the drawer of my wooden desk, I found all the love letters I used to write to boys who never noticed me at school. I started to read them, laying down in my tiny bed, as I slowly fell asleep, with a smile on my face.

Dodo diary edit

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Day 14: Dear Australia

 Monday 25th September 2015,

“My name is Julie Do. I am 30 years old and I come from Paris. After years of a quiet and comfortable life, I have exploded, literally, like a volcano that has been asleep and has suddenly woken up. I have decided to leave everything behind me; my home country, a good job, a caring family, trustful friends, a loving fiancé, my small world and safe path…

This life may sound alluring and kind of what you are expected to do but it was not. A routine largely made of insane working hours, unhealthy rhythms and loads of stress. A routine in which you lose yourself, without any purpose, a routine that makes you unhappy and embittered, where quality time has become too rare. And sadly this is what is happening in France. People have lost hope in their own country, people are scared. Unemployment has reached its highest rate, insecurity is rising, politics are useless, the economy is going down, our ‘Douce France’ as Charles Trenet, a famous old fashioned singer used to sing, is not sweet anymore but bitter and sad…

However, I have not decided to leave my country because of its decline, France will always remain my home. I have done it for myself, I have done it to see how far I can go into the great unknown, to be challenged and put myself at risk to achieve the best outcomes. I have done it to feel alive and breathe in all that life has to offer. I am trying to follow the great words of a very inspiring man who decided to be the master of his fate and the captain of his destiny. Someone special once told me that life is a birth, a death, and for the time in between it is our duty to make it count as we only live once. I do not want to get older frustrated, with my heart and mind eaten by regrets and remorse, with my adventure dream left unpursued.

I have been working since I was 22. Big international companies had trained me to be a very good asset, a hard-working, driven, team player, capable of performing to a high level under pressure and entirely dedicated to my job. Working 8 years in international firms like Deloitte or LVMH makes you tougher, ready to handle a huge amount of stress and committed to excellent customer service. It is a wild world where time is money and your position an ejector seat. But I held on and managed to adapt myself to a hostile environment, building my own happy world in a rough place. I found out it is the people that make it count. My job was not easy but the people I was surrounded by were great in helping me to like it.

But then came a day I realised that the safe path and safe choices were not a goal to fulfil anymore. What is the point of your life when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait to lurk to surprise you? Something else much more exciting is waiting for me and the time has come to pursue the crazy adventures I dreamed up while I was a young whippersnapper.

On the 14th of July 2013, I landed in Australia, ready to live those incredible things that I wanted to come true. Australia is an old teenage dream that I’ve always kept in a corner of my head. A mythic land of adventure symbolised by epic road trips, gorgeous landscapes, amazing quality of life, a land where wilderness and nature prevail on civilisation and human marks. A land where I could be far and lost enough to find myself.

It’s been a year now since I came to Australia and all I can say is this country is so easy to fall in love with. I have found my golden land. Somehow, Australia saved me. She pushed me to change my world, to question my past glories, to get out of my comfort zone, to try things I have never done before. I have adventured and explored so much and I am still following the path I choose to embrace. I have travelled, I have filled my epic road trip dream and I have discovered and learnt so many things being surrounded by the extraordinary people I have met during my journey. I have never felt so alive, so happy, but above all, I have rediscovered myself.

It is a true accomplishment to realise you are able to adapt yourself to a completely new environment, to give your utmost for the most honourable purposes, not for money or glory but for the true values we tend to forget; the happiness of helping people, the happiness of making people happy. We are living in such an individualist society, it just feels so good to get out of this world and escape a mediocrity of life I have always feared.

I have spent my year between travelling and volunteering. It’s as if all those years working in the bowels of a money maker pushed me to run away from it. I was desperately in search of authenticity, nature, wildlife, wilderness, breathtaking landscapes, new lifestyles and cultures but I wanted to associate something useful to it. Volunteering has appeared the best compromise to me.

And now here I am, 10 months later, living in a gorgeous organic farm, looking after kids in an Aussie family as an au pair. Who would have thought? Not me. This challenge popped up in my life out of the blue. From a project manager in France, I turned into a nanny chasing 4 hyperactive kids in a 20-acres farm nestled on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, on the outskirts of Sydney.

It may look like a big nonsense but it means everything to me. I needed to experiment with a new lifestyle, very far from my previous world, I needed a return to basics and true values. A simple life but beautiful and healthy, enjoying things I forgot to enjoy, my mind too busy with the turpitudes of my old life. Cooking, gardening, cleaning, doing sport, reading a good book down by the river, enjoying a 20-acre property of a self-sustaining farm chock-full of handmade treasures, animals, veggies, plants. Swimming in the river, playing with kids, riding motorbikes, chasing absconder pigs, fighting with turkeys, collecting eggs, climbing trees, making bonfires…I feel like Tom Sawyer living crazy adventures along the Hawkesbury River.

I am learning so much living with this family. What is interesting in looking after kids is the fact you have to act as an adult but be a kid as well. You have to be a big responsible kid taking care of young little whippersnappers. And I found out it is one of the most enriching experiences I have had so far and a full-time job. It is like being a mother. I am learning to cope with kids and I can tell that they are the most difficult clients to satisfy! They are merciless and push you to your very last limits, but they are at the same time filled with love to give. They have brought me so much just by being bright, smart, naughty sometimes and very, very funny.

Today I would like to get the chance to be a part of Australia, to be a member of its nation. In lots of ways, Australia inspires me, it’s a land of opportunity for people who know how to seize it and are eager to give their utmost. I am one of them. I have decided Australia will be my new home but it is not enough. I know that somehow I have to deserve Australia because lessons from history have taught me there is no conquered land, you must adapt yourself to fit with the country.

My parents are the best inspiration, in 1970 they fled Vietnam to run away from the war and start a new life in France. They struggled a lot but they have succeeded in building a respectable and honourable life, giving a good education to their children. I will always be grateful for that. I am a daughter of migrants and I am becoming a migrant myself.

I am proud of my family background and do believe that migration and diversity are a strength, as long as you respect the country, its values and its people. Australia is giving me so much and I have so much to give to her. I see the next chapter of my life in this country and I am so excited and look forward to writing it.

Who can show more motivation and eagerness than someone who had the courage of leaving a whole world to build a new one?”

 

 

 

 

#Day 13: be aware! Vanity publishers = SCAM!

“A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Additionally, vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other publishing models.

Because vanity presses are not usually selective (at least in the same way a commercial publisher would be), a publication by a vanity press is typically not seen as conferring the same recognition or prestige as a commercial publication.

The term “vanity press” is considered pejorative, implying that an author who uses such a service is publishing out of vanity and that his or her work would not be commercially successful.

This kind of publisher is also called ‘pay-to-play’ publisher (a company that will let the author pay for some or all of the costs associated with publishing the book, rather than taking on these financial risks itself as a traditional publishing house would).”

Damn. I wish I had googled that before!

The last few months I’ve been submitting my script to about 10 publishers, including 3 vanity publishers that I had no idea were of that kind. I’ve never heard that term before and If ONLY I’d known, I would have NEVER submitted my script to them.

The reason why I have such a bitter taste in my mouth is that these 3 vanity publishers have shown an interest in my book. A month ago, they asked for a full manuscript. I was on a cloud, brimming with optimism and joy, picturing my book on the shelves of major bookstores. The night I received an email confirming they wanted to publish my book, I could not sleep. I was dreaming big, my eyes fixed on the ceiling.

But my initial elation did not last long. The publishing contract of my dream turned out to be a contributed-based contract. Aka a SCAM. They wanted ME to pay THEM up front (thousands of $!) for publishing my book!

What an upside-down world we’re living in! The worst part is that they make it look logical and fair. They trick you playing on any new writer’s weakness: the desperation of getting our books published. They’ve dared to talk about “partnership” and “combining our effort” aka me, giving them an extortionate amount of money so they can sell a few copies of my book!

To sum them up, these publishers simply profit off desperation, from crushed hopes and dreams.

For a few minutes, I considered accepting the offer. That’s what we do when our dreams turn into desperation. But after doing some extensive research, I just accepted the fact that I got “legally scammed”. These publishers aren’t doing anything illegal. They claim their business model is a ‘halfway point’ between traditional publishing and self-publishing’.

The truth is, these vanity publishers are a threat to the traditional publishing industry. They are predators on the lookout for easy and vulnerable targets to take advantage of. They don’t believe in your work, I even doubt they fully read it. They just want to get money out of you, in the promise of vague sales! 

The publishing world is tough enough, we do not need disguised charlatans to make our journey harder. All writers should have respect for themselves and value the hard work they put into their craft.

No matter how strong we dream of publishing our book, never forget the ethics of doing it right. Accepting this kind of contract is more of a huge disservice for yourself and the writers’ community. There’s no glory or honour in paying a publisher to sell our books, and never should we pay a publisher to own our work. 

If we really want to invest in ourselves, the best thing is to self-publish. At least we’ll get to keep our royalties and we are in full control!

This Vanity Publishing experience obviously crushed me a little. What hurts me the most is that I truly believed my book appealed to a publisher. A publisher that genuinely wished to publish it because of its potential. I got offered 3 publishing contracts from Vanity publishers and none from legitimate publishers. It says it all.

Today I feel like I am paying for my novice’s mistake. I should have researched more the publishers to which I submitted my work to. I rushed my quest of the Graal and did not pay heed to the environment and its minefield. I was obsessed with the number of publishers I was submitting my work to and forgot about the quality and if they were legitimate.

But like I said before, the publishing world is a tough venture. I am actually grateful for experiencing its pitfalls because it’s the only way to get better and learn from my mistakes. It is part of the game, it is how I gain more experience, it is how I am able to share my journey and give my best advice:

  • Research extensively the publishers you’re submitting your work to.
  • Have a proper read of their submission guidelines and review their publishing process.
  • Make sure they’re legit, do not just check out their websites because they will look good! Go on forums, check the complaints.
  • Watch out, some bad publishers often return under new names! Vanity publishers share the same staff
  • Look up these helpful links:

Traditional publishers, subsidy publishers, vanity publishers, hybrid publishers, self-publishing–what’s the difference?:  http://www.sfwa. org/other-resources/for- authors/writer-beware/vanity/

Thumbs down Publishers Listhttp://www.sfwa.org/ other-resources/for-authors/ writer-beware/thumbs-down- publishers/

If you’ve been through the same experience, please share yours. For those who have questions, please do ask. Solidarity and sharing our journey is our only way to help each other in being aware of the publishing pitfalls!