In Print : "French Women Don't Sleep Alone" author on Martha's Vineyard
"French Women Don't Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love," by Jamie Cat Callan. Kensington Publishing Corp., March 2009. $12.95. 224 ppg.
Vineyarders, both men and women, will find new ideas on creating unforgettable dinner parties in Jamie Cat Callan's new book, "French Women Don't Sleep Alone." They will also find suggestions on the "little touches" that turn everyday outfits into head-turning ensembles and an understanding of the importance of building a coterie of friends, rather than focusing on the "pursuit" of love.
The Island will get a dose of Francophilia this Saturday, August 29, when Ms. Callan arrives for a book signing at Edgartown Books. A writing instructor and former Hollywood script-development assistant, the Mashpee-based author has assembled a collection of lessons on life, love, and the happiness she has gleaned from both her French grandmother and her own time abroad.
Her title is an intentional play on the 2004 best seller "French Women Don't Get Fat," because, she says, she sees a commonality at the heart of both books: "French women don't get fat because they eat for pleasure; it's the same approach to romance and marriage that makes their love lives so delicious," she writes.
Ms. Callan's book is far more than a cute title; it's loaded with wise and witty advice. Released in March, it was in its second printing within weeks, and hailed by Publisher's Weekly as the type of book - part memoir, part self-help - that is proving virtually recession-proof.
When she arrives on the Island Saturday, Ms. Callan will find herself on fertile soil: Vineyarders have long appreciated all things French, the French movies shown by the MV Film Society, by the new French language workshop at Featherstone Center for the Arts, and by the monthly Soiree Francaise gatherings, going strong since 1974.
The author sees a connection between French ways and Island ways in the traditional Vineyard potlucks: "The French have the same approach to entertaining. Make it casual, festive, have everyone bring a dish, and a friend," she writes.
Being an interpreter of French style for American readers wasn't Ms. Callan's initial career plan. She began her career in the early 1980s writing and publishing poetry, short fiction and three young adult novels, including "Over the Hill at Fourteen," which sold half a million copies and became a Scholastic Book Club selection. In 1991, she received a master's degree in fine arts in screenwriting from University of Southern California.
A more recent achievement was her 2007 book, "Writer's Toolbox" (Chronicle Books), a collection of writing exercises and games designed to help experienced writers break through blocks and new writers get started. It was a natural outgrowth of her work as a writing instructor at NYU, Yale, UCLA, and currently with the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast program in creative writing. Ms. Callan has also published fiction and essays in journals such as "Story," and "The Missouri Review," and anthologies such as "How I Learned to Cook" and "Best American Erotica."
Ms. Callan admits that before she met her husband she'd never considered living here. "I was a city gal - L.A., New York, Paris," she says. "But here I am, at 55. And I love that I've been shaken out of my complacency, able to see the world with new eyes." And, with a writer's glint in her eye, she adds, "Besides, there are so many characters here."
Brenda Horrigan is a contributing writer to The Times.