In January I went to Paris for a few weeks to launch my new book Out of the Blueness and to explore the Paris literary scene. If you’re ever thinking of doing the same here are some links and tips.
Paris has a vibrant poetry community full of native English speakers willing to help you out.Dylan Harris, editor of Corrupt Press, an English-language poetry publishing house, very kindly met me for coffee and advised me on where to perform.
Every Monday an open mic called Spoken Word takes place in the basement of a bar called Au Chat Noir in Oberkampf. It’s run by two lovely guys David Barnes and Alberto Rigettini and is full of expat poets and musicians. You sign up on the night and perform standing on two rickety benches. I signed up for the featured poet slot which means who can read for longer and I managed to sell some books. It’s the best place to meet fellow writers, everyone was extremely supportive. They even take photographs and mention you on their weekly blog so I highly recommend it.
Poets Live is another well known anglophone reading series which takes place every month in the cellar of an old fashioned Irish bar called Carr’s, just off Rue de Rivoli, and is run by Rufo Quintavalle. They have three featured readers who read in two separate slots on the night which works really well. I ended reading with two excellent American poets; Pansy Maurer-Alvarez and Deborah Bogen. The atmosphere was brilliant because the cellar is more like a cave really so your voice travels when you stand in one particular spot. Rufo gladly let me promote it as a book launch too.
Upstairs at Duroc is a literary and arts journal based in Paris which comes out once a year. I happened to be there for the launch of the 2012 issue and Kit Fryatt was over reading at it so it was lovely to see someone from home. The standard of writing was incredible so you should definitely consider submitting to them. They organise readings too and I would definitely recommend getting in touch with Barbara Beck, one of the editors.
Then of course there are the English-speaking bookshops, many of which host events and readings. The Abbey Bookshop is a brilliant little place with books stacked in towers on any subject you can think of. The manager, Brian, is extremely friendly and even offers you a cup of Canadian coffee with maple syrup in it. The Village Voice, The Red Wheelbarrow and Berkeley Books also have great selections of English language books and notices about reading groups and writing workshops.
And finally of course there is Shakespeare and Co. (see photo below) where I went most days and read Hemingway for hours. I managed to catch Lionel Shriver reading there and she was fantastic. I was also lucky enough to read there myself as the first person in their new Emerging Writer Series. They gave me a five minute slot with Louise Doughty who was launching her new book Whatever You Love. The whole experience was incredible, they sold my book in the shop and even took me out for dinner afterwards. It was also my birthday and my last week in Paris – I still can’t really believe it happened.
How did I get it? I just asked and got lucky. It was that simple. That’s the most important bit of advice I can offer to any writer – just ask. People are usually friendly and willing to help you out and you never know what opportunities any reading might lead to.
No matter what city you’re going to there is usually an open mic scene. Go along, read, go to other readings and make the effort to talk to people. That’s it really. Before I went to Paris I e-mailed all of these people so they knew who I was when I arrived. I directed them to my website so they could read my work and see what else I had done. Having a website is really handy if you want to promote yourself as a writer. I set mine up with weebly.com and it’s incredibly easy to work. Put together a little biography, list where you’ve been published and include some recordings or videos and then tell people about it. It will do wonders and show that you’re serious about your work.
Paris was an incredible experience but don’t forget that Dublin also has a hugely supportive writing scene. Go and explore it. You never know what it might lead to…