March 30, 2017
Dear Rachael Allen and Simran P. Gupta: First off, I’d like to introduce you to each other.
Rachael, Ms. Gupta is a junior at Simmons College and has been blogging and working for FC since last October. She’s about to become a full-fledged Barista.
Simran, Ms. Allen is a junior at Bowdoin College [Managing Editor Mike’s alma mater], and like you an English major.
Both of you are contributors to Fictional Café, bloggers, and write for your college newspapers.
AND you’re both spending a semester in Study Abroad programs, Rachael in Bologna, Italy, and Simran in Paris. We figured you’re likely to have some pretty interesting experiences, and ought to write about them for FC.
So here’s a special assignment for you: Please write to each other about your European experiences. Ask each other questions about your creative writing, your studies, journaling, life in Paris and Bologna, what the cultural and literary atmosphere in Europe is like. Whatever you would like to discuss. We’ll post your blogs in celebration of the Fictional Café’s fourth anniversary.
We’re excited about this assignment and looking forward to reading your conversations!
Jack and Mike
April 1, 2017
Nice to meet you! I read your FC piece about Paris—I just went to Shakespeare and Co. when I visited Paris a few weekends ago, and I too loved it (though I didn’t get to go to the cafe!). In Bologna, I often go to the English language section of one of the bookstores for that same sense of comfort from both the books and the language.
To start, I thought I’d ask you about your own writing before we talk more about the scene in our cities. Could you tell me about what you most often write about and when? And anything else you’d like to add about your own writing habits abroad.
Hope your time is Paris is going well.
I’m glad Mike and Jack put us in touch! I had been trying to get to Italy during my semester here, but couldn’t get any flights to work out. How crazy would it have been if we had an FC [Fictional Café] meet up? Anyway, this email chain is a cool idea, and I’m sorry it took me a couple days to respond—I just got back from a two-day excursion with my program, but it was the last of the semester, so I’ll be able to keep up with this regularly.
To answer your question about writing habits: I’m going to talk about my journaling first, because that’s changed more than my personal blogging style (I run my own blog on the side just for fun, as well as working with Jack on FC things). I’m a poet through and through—I love reading it and I love writing it, though I’m seldom satisfied with what I write. I’ve actually always tried to keep up with regular journaling, but I never could. Writing regular poetry, however, is something that has always been very natural for me. So that hasn’t suffered, being here. I’ve been taking a journal with me most places, which has been a good habit to get into.
I have also started journaling, however! Not very often, maybe once or twice a week, on particularly beautiful days. But it’s still regular, and it’s a step outside the poetry I usually write, so I’m happy about that. I’ve also been better about writing outside as it’s been getting warmer. I love, love, love the [Seine] river (the Charles is my happy place in all of Boston, other than my favorite indies), so I’ve made a habit of camping out on a particularly lovely spot with a coffee and just spending a couple hours writing. It’s one habit that I really want to keep when I come back.
I’ve rambled on about my writing habits, and not what I usually write about, so I apologize for that. My writing subject is usually dependent on whatever’s on my mind that day. That is to say, I don’t usually deliberately pick topics to write about, if that makes any sense? Unlike for my blog posts.
My question to you: How has the city of Bologna inspired you, in terms of writing or in your other creative pursuits? I feel like changing our surroundings the way we’ve done, so abruptly and completely, is both good for us as writers but also sometimes detrimental.
I’m excited to see where this goes, and I hope we get to meet in person soon!
There’s more to come from Rachael and Simran in a few days!
What a great idea! Simran, your descriptions of your writing life invite us right in. I especially love your attachment to rivers and the inspiration you get from that. Paris in spring must be pretty magic.