Take It from the Beginning
When people hear about the upcoming publication of The Markets of Paris, 2/e, the question they invariably ask is “How did this happen?” Their eyes sparkle with excitement, sometimes tinged with envy. Even people who know me well didn’t know I was working on this project. That’s because it fell into place shortly before I departed for Paris last year. And once I arrived, I was so busy working on it that I didn’t have a chance to fill everyone in. So, here’s the story of how it began…
My husband had a sabbatical in 2011. After lots of deliberation over where we would go, we agreed on what had been our top pick all along: Paris. As Audrey Hepburn said in the film Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea.”
A couple months before departure, I met up with my friend Marni. She knows I love markets–farmers markets, flea & antique markets, etc. It wasn’t just from the chablis that we’d been drinking with lunch (training for Paris) when she gushed, “There’s a book about the markets of Paris. You’ll love it. You must take it with you.” It was one of several recommendations she gave me, but by the time I got home I had forgotten the title and even the existence of a book about markets of Paris.
Two days later a packaged arrived. I unwrapped it and found Markets of Paris, by Dixon and Ruthanne Long, with the note “Bon voyage & bonne culture.Bisous, Marni.” This little book charmed me from the moment I held it in my hands. First of all, it felt good. My fingers glided over the smooth cover with rounded edges. The small trim size and sunflower illustration created a friendly first impression. The photos drew me in. But more than anything, I was captivated by the authors’ voice and by the topic. The introduction starts, “We have a love affair with the markets.” I knew I’d found kindred souls–these authors and this lovely book.
After reading the book in one sitting, my fingers stained bright yellow, I went to my computer to check out the publisher. When I visited The Little Bookroom’s website I realized that I already owned several of their books. Each takes an unusual angle on travel. Still swept up in the euphoria of discovering the Markets of Paris, I decided to do something I’d never done before in my life. I wrote a fan letter to the publisher. I said I adore the book and will be taking it with me to Paris, and by the way….is there any interest in a revision? I am a writer who is passionate about the subject. I had published articles on food, markets, farmers, etc. and would love to work on a project like this while living in Paris. I also confessed that my only disappointment with the book was that I hadn’t conceived of it in the first place. I wasn’t pandering; this was true.
I sent that email and remember marveling that I had taken the time to do so. I mean, what would ever come of that?
Within five minutes, my phone rang. The publisher was on the line. She doesn’t usually do this, she explained. But it so happened that my note arrived as a new edition was being considered. Sadly, one of the original authors (Ruthanne) had passed away. Perhaps it would be good to involve someone new in a revision? I agreed, and couldn’t believe this conversation was actually happening. Angela immediately impressed me with her intelligence, warmth, and humor, as well as her genuine concern for the authors and books in her program. She presented me with a challenge, with her usual grace & mental clarity: The markets of Paris have been around for hundreds of years. What justifies a new edition? She asked me to think about that.
I researched the markets and collected ideas on what I would do in a revision. I followed my instincts & interests, researching the growing interest in organic, the return of artisanal methods, up and coming chefs, and so on. After a few weeks I pulled together a proposal which I sent her, and which she in turn shared with Dixon Long, the lead author.
Angela arranged for a meeting in New York. As it turned out, a Nor’easter was forecast to hit the east coast that same day. A Brazilian family would be arriving on my doorstep the following morning to move into our home while we were abroad. I couldn’t risk getting stranded or delayed. I went anyway. Dixon had flown in from California. He’s a gracious man and talented writer who has published books across a range of genres. His extensive knowledge of the French markets was immediately apparent. Snow started falling heavily as we talked about a new edition of The Markets of Paris. I left the meeting to catch an earlier train back to Boston. Just as it arrived into Boston’s South Station, Amtrak closed and didn’t reopen for days. My train had literally pulled into the station at the right moment.
This whole project has been surprising, gratifying, fun, and (at the risk of sounding like a throwback) positively dreamy. It’s been a terrific adventure, and the opportunity to work with Dixon and Angela has been one of the best experiences in my writing life.
One lesson I’ve learned from this is to follow through on my impulses. Now when I come across something that really matters to me, I take action. It might not always pan out as well as this did. But it is worth a try.