I’m so excited to read Jamie Cat Callan’s new book, Ooh La La!: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. I loved the lighthearted advice of her book, Bonjour, Happiness!, and the interesting cultural comparisons of French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love. I also recommend The Writer’s Toolbox to any writer, or person who aspires to be more creative.
Jamie took some time out of her busy book tour to answer a few questions for us! Jouir de:
When did your love and admiration of all things French begin?
I grew up spending my summers with my French-American grandmother. She lived simply, without a lot of material goods, but she knew how to enjoy life. She was elegant, beautiful, and possessed a whole lot of joie de vivre.
What is the biggest difference you notice between American and French women?
The second wave feminist movement played out much differently in France than in America. As a result, Americans inherited a kind of divisiveness between men and women. We interpreted equality as sameness. France believes in the power of the difference between men and women.
Also, France’s economy is dependent on the culture of women—beauty, fashion, and perfume supports so many people in France. It can’t be taken lightly. Women’s interest in fashion and beauty is serious business, because it supports hundreds of thousands of people. In America, our industry is about finances, Wall Street and heavy industry. So you see, we’re not as financially connected to beauty—but I wish we were!
Jamie, in the middle, interviewing some French women.
In this day in age, when people are worried about the economy and international affairs, why should women concern themselves with their beauty and affect?
Okay, this may sound naive, but I believe that attention to beauty and elegance can actually save our economy and prevent wars. First, if we understand where true beauty comes from—our hearts—there’s no need to spend a lot of money. I can attest to this because my French grandmother lived through the Great Depression, sewing her own clothes, gardening and cutting back on luxuries. She lived well with very little. This is the French way.
In terms of the threat of war—well, there will always be the threat of war. That said, what is the point of protecting our countries, our lives, our way of living if not so that we can appreciate the tenderness of simple everyday pleasures, and yes beauty.
I believe that beauty can actually prevent wars. If we recognize the importance of beauty in our lives, then we will not want to destroy other beautiful things.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Always. I wrote stories, poems and songs for my family when I was a little girl. I loved to hear stories. So, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer!
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Write. Write. And write some more. Write on a regular basis and try to create a space that is special to you and your writing practice. I believe the muse likes to visit you when you show up regularly and honor the space with your words, your thoughts, and your dreams. And then aside from writing, I suggest, daydreaming. Your inner life and your powers of observations are important tools of the trade.
Finally, believe in yourself. Keep the faith. No matter what you’re doing—from washing dishes to working at Kinko’s, don’t forget you’re a writer and all this is your material, your paint box, your brushes and your canvas.
Describe your perfect day in France.
Ah, is there such a thing as a less-than-perfect day in France? Okay, well, if we’re talking about just one perfect day–I would spend much of it sitting in a café in Paris, watching the world go by. I would walk through the Tuileries, all the way from Concord to the Louvre. I would walk along the Seine and cross the Pont des Arts, to see all the bicycle locks that the lovers have left. Perhaps I’d even have a little picnic on the bridge. Oh, but I’d want to walk along the Seine and up to Notre Dame. And then I’d walk around the Left Bank and visit the places Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequented—Café Deux Magots and Harry’s Bar on the Right Bank.
Speaking of the Right Bank, I would stop by Chanel and pay homage to the Grand Dame of modern fashion. From there, I would walk a few blocks to Ladurée and perhaps indulge in a macaron or two. Later, I would go to the market in Belleville and buy some fresh flowers and do a bit of people-watching. Finally, I would have dinner at Café de l’Homme, where I’d get a table on the terrace, so I could watch the Eiffel Tower lit up against the Paris sky and I would drink champagne!
Sounds like a perfect day to me. Merci beaucoup! I can’t wait to read your new book, and start infusing my life with more beauty and joie de vivre.