Monday, August 1, 2011


         For the past year I have been conducting memoir writing workshops -- encouraging late bloomers (and some not-so-late bloomers) to write. The classes (, held in a tearoom in St. Petersburg, have been popular and I love giving them.  
Original site of Shakespeare & Company/Photo by Maureen Hammond
          I even was invited to give my workshop this summer at Shakespeare and Company, a funky bookstore in Paris, named after the English-language bookstore frequented by Hemingway and other members of the Lost Generation in the Twenties.  (It's where founder Sylvia Beach published James Joyce's "Ulysses" in 1922.)
         But, as they say, life happens when you're planning something else.
         In April, I traveled to my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin and gave the workshop at Andrea's, a gift shop/cafe that has been on that spot for the past 100 years (fudge ripple ice cream was invented there). During that workshop, I even joined in with participants and wrote my own personal essay in class and read it aloud -- along with everyone else. A first for me. 
          On that trip to Wisconsin, however, I also had scheduled a workshop at the Senior Center in Shorewood (, located, appropriately, right across the street from where my mother had lived. My mother's late-in-life writing career was the inspiration for my workshops in the first place.  LaVerne Hammond wrote her first column for the St. Petersburg Times at age 86 and wrote monthly until her death at age 92.  The columns are gathered in a volume entitled "Post Scripts: A Writing Life After 80."  

         But that second workshop in Shorewood never took place. While in Wisconsin, I landed in the hospital with a heart ailment. I had to cancel the Shorewood class and also the summer workshop at Shakespeare & Company in Paris. How do you say bummer in French? 
         But late bloomers, of course, are not easily discouraged. I still took the trip to France (although a much abbreviated one than planned and one where I relied greatly on the kindness of strangers, friends and relatives to see that I didn't overly exert my heart). And I even managed to write a travel memoir about my stay in Paris for the Washington Post travel section  Being in Paris, it turns out, did wonders for my heart.

      The Washington Post piece was about my

search for Paris of the Twenties, inspired by

Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." But like Gil

Pender, the movie's wannabe novelist who

magically is transported back to his favorite era,

I discovered that the best time to be in Paris is now.

In my article, I conjure up my own quirky Paris,

something that everyone who visits the City of

Lights inevitably does -- whether he or she writes it down or not.

       So what's next for me and my ever-growing-stronger heart?  Next April, I am planning to reschedule the class at Shakespeare and Company in Paris to encourage others to write of their own moveable feasts. That month, I also will be holding a weekend writing workshop at the Chateau des Sablons, a beautifully restored 18th century castle in the Loire Valley 
France awaits you/Photo by Maureen Hammond
       I'd love to have you join me. If you are interested, contact me at  My mother’s late-in-life writing career has convinced me that it’s never too late to fulfill your dreams. But the time to begin is now

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