Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 29 October 2016

READING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE by Gill Stewart



You should read outside your comfort zone, shouldn’t you? Hmm, has been my usual answer to that, not me! I (like lots of other people!) don’t like going outside my comfort zone.

But I accidentally did just that. I’m working on a YA novel with a half-French heroine and was lucky enough to be on a writing retreat in France. The little place I had all to myself for writing was called Mon Rêve and it really was a dream - see pic.



So far so good. One day I was wandering around a French supermarket (so strangely different to a British one) and saw they had a large selection of French teen novels. I paged through a few. I used to be able to read French, but these looked difficult. Then I found one that was a mixture of words and pictures. Much better! I bought it, partly for fun and partly for research.

The book I ended up reading - almost every word ...

And I found that it was a) much harder than I had expected. French teenagers clearly use an awful lot of slang! There were words I’d never heard of, and then words I had heard of but they were being used in a peculiar new way. Oh dear. And then, amazingly, I found that, b), by pushing myself to read it, dictionary at my side, I was getting into the head of a French teenager in a way that I couldn’t have done otherwise. I was reading outside my comfort zone! 


Of course, what I was reading was the writer’s take on French teenagers, but it gave me something that I couldn’t have got any other way – a French view on a French teenager. And after a while, it even started to be fun. For anyone who is reasonably fluent in French I’d recommend giving the book a try. It's interesting and funny and engaging. It’s Toi + moi + tous les autres, Tome 1 : #MesAmisMesAmours* by Sylvaine Jaoui. As it is not (yet?) translated into English, this is your only way of reading it.


Now I want to make myself continue with this reading outside my comfort zone, although the suggestion from my fellow writing-retreater that I give horror a try might just be a step too far … Does anyone have any less scary suggestions?

*You + me + all the others, Volume 1: #MyFriendsMyLoves

12 comments:

  1. Well done Gill on reading outside your comfort zone. Richard reads and has read lots of French books and keeps telling me, it's the only way to improve my very bad French! I do buy French magazines and half heartedly flip through them - there never seems to be enough time! One of my favourite books The Presidents Hat (I think I've mentioned it before?) I read the translation but you could try the original.

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    1. I'll definitely look out for The Presidents Hat Jennie, thanks!

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  2. That's a really interesting post, Gill - thanks. It illustrates that research isn't just about finding out facts - it's about getting into character, too. I'm not sure my French would be good enough these days, though!

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I didn't think it was research I'd be able to persevere with so it was a good exercise from lots of points of view. Some research is defnitely more fun than others.

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  3. How interesting, Gill - it sounds like a fascinating exercise and the story sounds quite good. Love the writing space!

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    1. Thanks for popping by Rosemary. It was fascinating and really added to the 'being in France' experience.

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  4. Your writing retreat sounds idyllic, Gill and what an interesting way to get closer to your teenage character and the way she talks. : )

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    1. Retreat was great - I'd thoroughly recommend one if your family will let you escape :).

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  5. Your retreat sounds perfect, Gillian! I studied French and Italian, and can't believe that I used to read novels in both languages-have thought about returning to them one of these days. A favourite Italian author used to be Stefano Benni, and I loved his book: Il Bar Sotto Il Mare, about a group of people who meet in a bar under the sea-his books really made me think, plus he writes beautifully.

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    1. Sounds fascinating Anita. I'm going to see if it's translated into English, my Italian is almost non-existent!

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  6. That's fascinating, Gill. What a terrific way to really get into a book - having to work really hard, but but getting extremely rewarding results. Your retreat sounds terrific too - where was it?

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    1. Thanks Jenny - it was rewarding, if hard work initially. The retreat was in the Midi-Pyrenees, just me and a writing friend. A whole week of peace! Bliss.

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