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I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a clear picture of how I was going to solve the problem of what to put on the cover of my Damn France Book.

Of course! I almost laughed out loud: It’s so obvious!!

And then two hours later I woke up again and couldn’t remember a thing.

Maybe I just dreamedit. In which case, jeeeze: I wish I could stop worrying about that damn cover. Or, maybe I did have a brilliant idea, and forgot it, in which case that’s not fair because I went to bed stone cold sober last night for nothing!

My dear husband and traveling companion Top Cat says I should put a map of France on the cover, which I think is too boring but if all else fails I’d be more than happy to do a map of France.

Back when I was an embroiderer I used to do a lot of embroidered maps of my travels. I’ve done several maps of France from the journeys I took in the 1980s and in the dawn of the 1990s — this is the last such map I did (of a trip I took in 1990):

This map is 25 inches square (see tea bag on left, for scale, those of you who are like me and can’t be bothered to think very hard about abstract concepts like measurements).

And, in fact, I already have had a go at a map for the Damn France Book, for the inside of it (somewhere near the beginning) to show the territory that the book covers:

Yes, I know this map sucks — it’s was just a quick sketch, a place-holder in the manuscript for the real map that I was going to settle down and do once I got past the deadlines and first edits.  (Top Cat especiallydisliked the color that I used for France — a weird drab brownish color that looks like a stain left over from when the cat got sick.)

I finished making all the first edits on the Damn France Book manuscript on Friday, so on Saturday I spent the day making my for reals map of France for the readers of my D. F. B.:

You will see that I’ve taught myself how to write like French people do in order to do the lettering on this map (and in the cheese, bread, and charcuterie illustrations that I threw up on this blog here

French handwriting is a kick! Just the sight of it makes me happy! And I found on-line lessons from a website of an elementary school in Lyon and I had me many hours of joy, practising my French cursive. On another day I will give you all a lesson in French handwriting and you will see what fun it is for yourself!

But sorry, not today: today I want to share something that my friend Melinda showed me — and it has to do with What Makes A Good Cover For A Book About France.

Melinda showed me a new book she’d just bought, based on a delightfully informative and fun website called French Word A Day (link here: written by an American woman who’s been navigating the French language for the past fifteen years as a wife and mother living in the South of France. Her French husband is a wine maker.

I know. Let’s take a minute to pause, catch our breaths, stop screaming I Wanna Live In a VineyardI Wanna Live In a Vineyard I Wanna Live In a VineyardI Wanna Live In a Vineyard I Wanna Live In a VineyardI Wanna Live In a Vineyard…

Think calm thoughts about reincarnation in France, think calm thoughts about reincarnation in France….

Anyhoo, this lucky lady, name Kristin Espinasse, has turned her adorable blog into a new book, and that book has (in my opinion) a perfect cover:

It’s light, it’s fun, it’s colorful, it tells you just enough about the book to make you wonder what is on the inside. And the fact that it features French handwriting is a huge, huge PLUS.

AND, when I went to her blog, I discovered that she has thumbnails of about a thousand (or so) books in her genre: all books about living, working, loving, traveling, learning, eating, dressing, dieting, decorating, or cooking in France! It’s like a crash course on the current state-of-the-art art for What Makes A Good Cover For A Book About France.

Here are some of my favorites (I haven’t read any of them, I’m just judging them by their covers):

What do you think? Do you like these covers?

I do; I think that for sure, there’s something here that I can steal from. And when I do, I will naturally rely on the taste and the vast breadth of book loving experience of my wonderful Focus Group (thank you, all you volunteers!).

There’s something about looking at book covers about France that makes me ever so thirsty. Time to raid Top Cat’s wine cellar so tonight, when I wake up in the middle of the night not in a French vineyard but in a fog of forgetfulness and creative lost chances, it will be worth it.

12 comments to A map of my dreams.

  • I scrolled down just a smidgen farther, and there was WWCTR, cute as it can be, with a cat on luggage. Pure white background, nicely bordered, etc.
    I go with my first suggestion; a window facing Paris in the background.
    o no; that wouldn’t exemplify the theme. Traveling with marginal luggage, etc. sorry
    Unless you have the cat sleeping on a backpack. Paris in the window….


  • Joan

    I love the cover of the Espenasse (sp?) book, even though it’s suggestive of your style, your art work is better, more charming, whimsical. The French Cursive is yummy too. I do love the second rendition of the map, being a map lover from childhood, I can’t tell you how many kazillion miles I’ve traveled looking at maps.

    And…I don’t care what you finally call the latest book it will forever be “The Damn France Book” to all the loyal followers and focus groupettes (french, oui?)

  • Barbara

    I love the simplicity and charm of the Espinasse book cover. The striped wallpaper could be ideal for your book. I also like the fonts and layout. Somehow the cover transports us to France, and draws us in.

  • julie a. smith

    Hi–I love your artwork, especially the maps. At 64, I continue to travel light with just a backpack. I like the suggestion of a backpack, perhaps leaning next to a rustic OR Paris fence, an open- or folded map next to it, and a cat settled on top. You could use your Fr. writing, love it, describing that areas of France you are “visiting” in the TDFB.
    Good Luck!

  • I like them all, but especially the last with the woman on the bicycle.

    Jalouse – that is the french word that springs to mind with all these people living la vie en rose…

  • Deborah

    I, too, like the Espinasse cover best, but what’s with the stripes (that cover & the Joie de vivre one)? Not liking those at all. Both Espinasse & Guiliano have women on bikes on their covers. And, color me biased, but I’m thinking no illustration of France would be complete without a black French poodle!

  • Rachel

    Kristin’s blog is a delight and I have polished up a tiny bit of my french from reading it. And she does indeed have the best listing of books about living and visiting in france. I can hardly wait until you teach us french handwriting. Oooh la la.

  • Dear god, those were all so beautiful it’s hard to know where to start. Or end! I’ll go with the maps though. I love a map. And a hand-painted map, maybe. It makes me happy, and ready to buy an airline ticket, just thinking about it.

  • Nadine

    How about a cover with two tableaux: one a homage to the romantic album covers from the 50s in V’s collection, and the other a modern romantic scene with a tad of reality. The catch would be that France is still a romantic place for Americans.

    There’s got to be a dog on the cover. Maybe a poodle in a handbag like you see in Paris restaurants. Wearing a beret.

  • Deborah

    I realized after my first post I hadn’t commented on your map paintings — a case of out of site, out of mind, as I scroll down the blog.

    I like the idea of maps but agree with Top Cat re: the color in the first one (interesting that cats leave the same colored stains as dogs! All our carpets are polka-dotted.) I really like the first one for the continuity of sea and sky it shows, yet I prefer the site illustrations of the second one. I also like the grape border in the first one — partly because of the soft blue background. I guess I really like that color of blue. So I guess my focused response is I’d like to see a combination of the two.

  • Vivian – I love your for real maps. For real. They have much more pizzazz than any of the examples of others’ books shown.
    And, Morgan e-mail awaits yawning in your inbox.

  • I love all these covers and I too love the French writing especially in restaurants, it makes everything look delicious. I like the map direction for the cover. I like the light, airy concept. I know you’ll nail it and it will be the pride of any collection, can’t wait!!!


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