Interview with Lisa Anselmo, Author of “My (Part-Time) Paris Life”

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Interview with Lisa Anselmo, Author of “My (Part-Time) Paris Life”
Lisa Anselmo, a writer and creative director, was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in a small town in northern New Jersey. She settled in New York City, working at iconic media brands like Allure, Mademoiselle, InStyle, and People. Her first trip to Paris was as a 16-year-old high school student with her French class, and at that time she was less than charmed. Years later she came back, and had an entirely different experience. Twelve years ago she started shuttling back and forth between New York and Paris on a regular basis, and in 2012, after buying an apartment on Paris’s Right Bank, launched her blog, My (Part-Time) Paris Life. Now there is a book of the same name, released this month, and a Youtube series. Lisa recently took the time to answer Janet Hulstrand’s questions about her part-time Paris life… Janet Hulstrand: You tell the story of your first trip to Paris, and how years later you came to be spending more and more time there in your book, so I’m not going to ask about that. But can you tell us how you decided you were going to write a book about your part-time Paris life?  Lisa Anselmo: I didn’t plan to write this book, not the one that’s been published. I had been toying with something, but it wasn’t about my part-time Paris life. It was mostly about coping with my mother’s illness and death—because I needed to exorcise those demons. And I was using the search for the apartment in Paris as the vehicle to move the story forward, culminating in my finding the apartment (and hope) as the happy ending. But fate had other ideas. I was sort of discovered from an article written about me in New York magazine. At the time I only had the blog, which was featured in the article. Kat Bryzozowski at St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books saw the article, read some of the blog, and sent me an email with an offer of a book deal. Then my editor reshaped the story. She wanted more about my life in Paris after I had the apartment, and that’s how My (Part-Time) Paris Life came to be. JH: What was the most rewarding thing about writing the book? And what was the hardest? LA: The hardship of writing was the reward. I’ll explain. Because my editor had shifted the timeline of the story, I was essentially writing a memoir while I was still living a lot of the events. And I had a tight deadline so I had very little time to reflect; it was intensive self-examination during some pretty tough times. I have to say, writing about myself was a miserable experience for me. I was sick of myself, and my thoughts, all day long. I kept thinking Who will want to read this? Who will care? But my editor believed in me and my story, kept me focused, kept digging for deeper meaning. It was exhausting and heartrending at times, but after it was finished, I felt a real healing, not just from the heartbreak of losing my mother, but stuff that went way back. It was as if this book had to be part of my journey to find this healing, and maybe that’s why it came to me the way it did. I hope others may find inspiration in it, too. I really do. JH: What are some of the pros and cons of a life divided between two places?  What do you love most about Paris, and about New York? What drives you the most crazy about each of these places? LA: It does get dizzying. Sometimes I forget where I am. But it also makes it hard to attach to any one place—to start a relationship, for example. To create bonds. I often feel I’m missing out on something in one place or the other. But I do love having both places to hang my hat. Each feeds my soul differently. New York charges me up, and Paris recharges me. I love Paris for many reasons. The fact that you can see the sky is a big one. In New York, the scale of the city can be overwhelming. But the one thing I really love about Paris is a simple thing: I can sit in a café as long as I wish, and write. A writer’s life can be a solitary one, and being in a café keeps you connected. You can’t do that in New York. It’s eat, pay, and get out! But I do love the entrepreneurial spirit of New York, the in-your-face honesty of the place. The excitement, the opportunity. I love how things just get done in New York. People find a way in and around a problem and make it happen, because standing still is not an option. I think that’s something about Paris that irks me most: getting things done sometimes seems like an ordeal. You hear “no” a lot. The rules, the rules! It’s like they’ve put themselves in a small box and dare not go outside—for fear of what, exactly, I don’t know. I admit sometimes I do feel like taking people by the shoulders and shaking them. Make it happen, people! JH: Speaking of which, one of the subplots in both your book and your blog is The Story of the Great (Terrible) Leak that kept you out of your wonderful little Paris apartment for how long? LA: Every book needs a villain, no? It was pretty close to two years that I couldn’t live in my place, mostly because of the mold that had grown. (I’m very allergic, and have asthma.) The owner of the apartment above mine refused to fix the leak for 18 months, saying…
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Lead photo credit : Author Lisa Anselmo. ©Carla Coulson

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and she writes frequently on France for a variety of publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the education abroad program of Queens College of the City University of New York; classes at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.; and Writing from the Heart workshop/retreats in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region (l’Aube).

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Comments

  • Brenda Hill (Brie)
    2016-10-27 14:49:34
    Brenda Hill (Brie)
    You or Diane Lane. Cannot wait to read your book. Brie...co-author of culinary (chef) book about Paris

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