Interview: Janet Hulstrand
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, and teacher based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her essays and articles have been published in Bonjour Paris, the Christian Science Monitor, International Educator, Smithsonian.com and many other publications.
She and Linda Hetzer wrote the book, Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, which they have developed into a blog called Downsizing the Home: Lessons Learned. Janet also creates and teaches literary programs throughout North America and Europe.
How would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Curious. Passionate. Optimistic.
What is your connection to France?
I teach an American literature class in Paris to a group of students from the City University of New York every summer. And I teach writing workshops in a little village in the Champagne region twice a year, spring and fall. I’ve been spending as much time as I can in France for many years now. It feels like a second home to me.
Do you have a personal motto or inspiration that drives your literary programs?
Yes, I do. My literature courses are all designed around the premise that when people read literature written in or about the places they are discovering through travel, both the literary experience and the travel experience are deepened and enriched immeasurably. It’s a wonderful way to dig into a place, to learn so much about the history, culture, character of places and people. And of course, reading wonderful books about the places you’re traveling to is just plain fun.
As for a motto, my favorite travel quote comes from Jack Kerouac, who I think of as a kind of patron saint of travel. He wrote this wonderful book called Satori in Paris, which describes his adventures in Paris and in Brittany in the 1960s. He had come to research his family history but, being Kerouac, he spent most of his time getting drunk and into various kinds of trouble. Still, one of the insights he took away from the experience was this: “No matter how ‘successful’ your tour, or how foreshortened, you always learn something and learn to change your thoughts.”
I think that’s one of the greatest things ever said about traveling, and I think it applies to life as well.
What are your interests outside of writing and teaching?
Traveling. Reading. Spending time with my two sons. Spending as much time as I can outside, or at least looking out a nice big window while I work.
Now onto your favorites…
You are based in Silver Spring, Maryland, but travel around Europe and North America for your work. Which is your favorite French city or region?
That’s easy. I love the région Champagne-Ardenne and especially the departement de l’Aube.
Where is your favorite place in Paris to relax?
I’d say it’s a toss-up between the Jardin de Luxembourg, and the Champ de Mars.
Where is your favorite place in Paris to write?
I love just finding a favorite corner of a favorite little neighborhood bar or brasserie where I can go often and spend leisurely time undisturbed. Settle in with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, a notebook and a pen, and watch the world go by, or shift and change around me.
Where is your favorite place in Paris to celebrate a big event?
I like taking my students to Le Train Bleu, in the Gare de Lyon, for their farewell dinner each year. It’s so easy to feel connected to the glorious belle epoque past there. The waiters are friendly, the food is good, the décor is just wildly extravagant, and it’s so historic. What’s not to like?
Who is your favorite French writer?
Sadly, I don’t get to spend much time reading in French. I have been reading and enjoying Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. And I enjoyed reading Les Miserables a few years ago, though I must admit I didn’t finish the book. And I always enjoy reading the mysteries of Simenon.Thank you Janet for taking the time to speak to us at My French Life™. We’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your French favorites. To find out more about Janet, you can see the website winged-words.com. Read Episode 2 of our interview with Janet, coming soon. All mages © Janet Hulstrand