Paris Letters | An Interview with Janice MacLeod

Ever had a secret urge to stop what you're doing, pick up your bag and head for Paris? In this post, author of the New York Time's best-selling book Paris Letters, Janice Macleod talks stepping out of your comfort zone and offers advice for aspiring writers and artists.

"How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this question to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn't as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street - who doesn't speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves - words, art, and Christophe - to figure out a way to make her
happily- ever- after in Paris last forever."

Paris Letters deeply explores the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the plunge in life. What advice would you give to someone who’s forever yearning to make a drastic life decision?

The first piece of advice is to work it out while you’re currently living your current life. I did this by writing in my journal each day. I figured out how much money I would have to save to quit my job, how long that would take, how long I could be without money coming in, where to go and what to do when I got there. Of course, there is only so much planning one can do, but planning as much as you can help make these dreams closer to reality… and with only a pencil and paper. You don’t need to invest heavily or make big changes in order to make plans. Making plans is free. Secondly, I’d look at all the things to do in order to make a drastic life change and do the things that were possible in that moment. For me, my life in Paris started by cleaning out my underwear drawer in my apartment in LA. I wasn’t taking all those panties with me. I’d be taking one suitcase, so I started to whittle my wardrobe down until it would be about the size of a suitcase. It was a small act, but it was something I could do on THAT DAY right at the beginning of hatching my escape plans. The next day, I started cleaning out closets. Later, I went to all my doctor’s appointments: dental visits, annual doctor’s visit… that boring necessary stuff that is easy to get out of the way and cross off the list. All this time I saved and saved and researched where to go and what to do when I would eventually leave my job and travel to Paris. 

Aside from the beautiful writing, your authentic letters and illustrations really ignite a memorability about Paris Letters. Has art always been a revered outlet of yours?

Oh no. In fact, art has always been a great frustration to me. I’ve always wanted to paint and draw but felt I never had the natural talent that some people had. But what I did have was the desire. So I would doodle. Doodling on the edges of my day book, of the newspaper, of scraps of paper on my desk. Doodling is how all the illustrations start. Writing is more natural for me and is my chosen profession. I’ve been a professional writer since I was 20. If I could choose just one, it would be writing. It comes easier to me. But that illustration desire is still humming in the background. It’s like writing is my spouse but illustration is my lover. One is calm and steady (the writing) and the other is stressful but exciting (illustration). 

Your journey to happiness in Paris, although idyllic and dreamy, must’ve have been difficult at times. Were there ever any moments where you had reservations about your decision to travel? What advice would you give to someone who has?

Travel is physically demanding. People forget that the word itself, travel, is a verb. It’s not easy to lug a bag, to walk it, lift it, wait for it, find room for it, drag it, unpack, repack, take it again. And that’s just the bag! Travel means walking, getting lost, sleeping on planes and trains, and not sleeping at all. It’s also sleeping in strange beds that smell of strangers. It’s bad food and confusing maps. I’d advise anyone who wants to travel to practice close to home first. Take day trips. Figure out maps on your own. Go for long walks. I didn’t realize at the time, but in the year before I left LA for Paris, I went for long walks. It was a cheap form of entertainment. I could save money but also, I didn’t realize at the time, I was training for traipsing around European cities. Aside from the physical aspects of difficult travel, visa paperwork is often a challenge. In France, it’s particularly challenging. So there were times when I was going through visa appointments and not having the right paperwork when I wanted to just storm out and get the first plane home. Same with the language. Learning another language is frustrating. There were times in my French classes when I wanted to cry with frustration. And of course, being away from friends and family means missing so much of their lives. Getting through that takes some mental gymnastics. It’s not easy to rejig relationships to include many sad goodbyes. 

I’m delighted to say that next February I’m traveling to Paris. What would be your suggestions for making the most out of a weekend trip to Paris?

I always suggest going to the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette department store to take in the view of Paris. It’s marvellous. I like it much more than going up the Eiffel Tower, which can be the one activity you do in a day. The Eiffel Tower is much lovelier from a distance and from below. Less so from the top. I also suggest picking a neighbourhood and wandering around rather than trying to ping pong from monument to monument. It’s more relaxing and you see lovely details in the architecture and shop windows. I love walking around the 5th arrondissement. That’s my neighbourhood… It’s the Latin quarter and includes the rue Mouffetard market street (mostly closed on Mondays but is splendid on Sundays), Hemingway’s apartment, Shakespeare & Co, Notre Dame, the Seine… it’s a lot of Paris jammed up in one area. My local bistro is TournBride at 104 rue Mouffetard. It’s a perfect stop morning, noon and night. Censier Daubenton is the M├ętro stop. But most of all, don’t cram in too much. It’s nice to just dive deep into one neighbourhood. I also like wandering around the Marais (4th arrondissement), and Montmartre is delightful. 

And finally…Paris Letters perfectly encapsulates faultless art and writing. What would be your top tip for aspiring writers/ artists?

Avoid trying to be faultless. Just create the best version of whatever you’re creating. And keep plugging away at it until you can’t possibly improve it. And have fun at it. It shouldn’t be torture. Lean toward what is fun for you. The world needs more levity these days, and that comes through in your art if you’re mostly enjoying yourself.

Thank you all for reading and big thank you to Janice MacLeod for collaborating in today's post!



Let me guess...95% of your wardrobe's beloved outfits chiefly consist of neutrals?

 Yes, that's right. Neutrals. I'm talking cream, beige, black, grey and white - your go to's. Aka; boring. Oh no! Don't be embarrassed. I'm guilty of it too. But don't you think it's a little routine? Safe, perhaps? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that neutrals are the bane of all existence. Not at all. In fact, they are quite the opposite (after all, the prospect of burying yourself in a big, black oversized jumper can seem pretty tantalising, and even the vision of stepping into a formal gathering looking as if a colossal rainbow just threw up on you is enough to send shivers running up your spine). However, adding as little as an ounce of colour to your wardrobe is guaranteed to have you emitting rays of confidence and voluntarily twirling everywhere you go!

Why, you ask? It’s unprecedented. Quirky. Fun. And - if you thought it couldn't get any better - according to Jules Standish, style and colour consultant and author of ‘How Not To Wear Black’ in an article for the Daily Mail, adding a pop of colour to your wardrobe can have a ‘psychological effect’ that leads to an acceleration in happiness and a boost in self esteem - hooray! No wonder CBeebies’ Mr Tumble always had such a big grin on his face…

Although we now know that wearing colourful clothing is a stop on the railway to happiness, how do we actually style it? What colour combinations work? How much colour is too much colour? There’s a lot to factor in…

First things first: colour combo’s and how to style them. Pale blue and pink are a match made in heaven for pastel lovers and a great option for a subtle and understated dip into the realm of colour. Try a blue cashmere sweater paired with a pink tailored jacket for a sophisticated day outfit or a blue floaty midi dress with a pastel tote for an evening option. Whereas, for the braver of you, opt for the dream team that is green and yellow (a khaki blazer dress and mustard shoulder bag, perhaps) but note to steer away from bolder hues when it comes to footwear to avoid the schoolgirl error of colour clashing. For a Parisian and Chanel inspired look, red and blue is the one for you! Think navy or denim blue culottes with a fitted crimson jumper, or a simple red blazer to spice up your day-to-day denims. Additionally, the revered duo of blue and orange are your go-to hues for colour blocking. A darker navy hue partnered with a burnt orange shade epitomises the autumnal or winter colour palette whereas a more vibrant version of the two works well in the spring and summer months. Whichever of the two you choose to wear, it’s crucial that you pick the perfect shoe - experts tend to gravitate toward nude heels in order to draw as little attention away from the main body of the outfit.

Although there is no existing rulebook when it comes to fashion, there are still a plethora of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to consider. Specifically when it comes to the mammoth task of hijacking your wardrobe with colour, and you want to avert the ‘my three year old drew on me with her entire Crayola crayon set’ look. To prevent this, know what colour duo’s to avoid. For example, pale pink and blue may be a pastel tinged dream, but green and orange? That is a very different type of dream; it’s a fashion enthusiast’s worst nightmare. The same goes for the following duos: green and pink, purple and yellow, red and orange, grey and brown, and brown and black. And as for the notorious saying; ‘red and green should never be seen’. Well… I guess there’s a reason why it’s so acclaimed.

If all of this colour talk still feels a little bit intimidating and you’re not quite ready to jump straight into the deep end, how about taking a minimalist’s approach? Styling a basic tee and some skinny jeans with a vibrant tote bag. Spicing up your go-to white dress with some statement fuchsia earrings. Converting an all-black outfit with some flamboyant heels and some vibrant jewellery. This way you can continue to bask in the safety of your regular, day-to-day outfit whilst adding a pop of colour to the mix - the best of both worlds!

Whether you choose to release your Inner Regina George and amplify it to the max’ with a knock em’ dead pink dress, or keep things subtle and sophisticated with some colourful accessories, the bottom line is simple: go bold or go home.


What to watch on Netflix this autumn

Autumn is a pretty jam-packed season: back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving and a three month long exuse to drown yourself in oversized sweaters and joyously splurge out on daily pumpkin spiced lattes. Inevitably, you're going to need some down time. 

Think you've just about finished every good thing on Netflix, but still want to sit back, relax and delve into the hot chocolate and T.V season? This list is compiled of some the best fall themed films and series on Netflix - ranging from light-hearted rom-coms to spooky Halloween watches. Whatever you fancy, there's bound to be something to satistfy your fall film cravings.

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 Follow Rory, Lorelai and their friends in this seven series feel-good show, set in a storybook town in Connecticut. Surrounding the everday events of the Gilmore's lives, the series creates a cosy, feel-good atmoshere.

    EVENTS - 2019
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" The extraordinary Baudelaire orphans face trials, tribulations and the evil Count Olaf in their fatelful quest to unlock long- held family secrets"

3) ABOUT TIME - 2013 
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"When Tim learns that the men in his family can travel in time and change their own lives, he decides to go back and win the woman of his dreams"

4) OCTOBER KISS - 2015 
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"A free- spirited woman takes a temp job as a nanny to a
workaholic widower. As Halloween approaches, she shows the family there's a fun side to life"

5) CHALET GIRL - 2011
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"Rich guy falls for poor girl.The only things between them are his snobby mom, girlfriend and a mountain of snow"

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"A teen has to scrub floors at her stepmom's diner. She dreams of Princeton...and a star quaterback Prince Charming"

7) THE GOOD PLACE - 2019
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Okay, I'll admit. This isn't autumnal. But, it is amazing. And, if you're sick of binge-watching series in an entire day, The Good Place has your back with new episodes airing every Saturday in the U.K!
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