Woman’s Battle: improving my writing in a second language
As part of my journey to become a better writer in English I’ve decided to join a writing club in 2020. The experience has been unique and transformational. The group is part of the Toastmasters International network, but Rough Writers has its own sauce. They help writers and entrepreneurs to develop their creativity and storytelling skills through bi-weekly writing exercises and workshops.
Did it help with my goal?
I had published before in a collective book back in Brazil about a controversial political case involving the former Governator Aécio Neves. But this here, it was different: I had to write in English a fictional story.
The prompt was this photo:
I confessed it was quite a challenge to write something fictional, so I decided to create a hybrid story. In “Les Batailles de la Femme” (Woman’s Battle), I was inspired by the early years of the French philosopher and mother of existentialist feminism, Simone de Beauvoir. You might have heard about her book The Second Sex.
It was important to me that my story would discuss things I value, such as freedom, courage, and friendship. Simone was the perfect character to it, as I was also advancing on my studies of feminism and identity. The feedback I received was very positive. People shared how touching, relatable and my story was. So, I decided to share a bit of it here with you all.
A few steps into the Jardin du Luxembourg and Marjorie could sense the freshness of the place. She couldn’t explain the origin of the feeling. Maybe it was the lushly landscaped Jardins, or perhaps the abundance of empty seats and the possibility to contemplate nature. It could also be the fact that the Jardin, a tourist attraction, carried some sort of magic?
Marjorie had this theory about tourist places. Unlike most people, who saw them as venerable yet useless, she saw them as places of power that inspire lasting awe.
People from all over the world come to the Jardin du Luxembourg. What brings so many people here? They are all curious to find out what makes the place special. Yes, there is beauty. Flowers, trees, a lake, a water fountain … all man made, not necessarily nature. What most people don’t realize is that the real beauty is in the people. Le gens from all different countries, cultures, and beliefs all come together here, simply to contemplate life.
Since the Après-Midi Solitaire, Marjorie had developed a new way of looking at things. She realized that life has no meaning until you give it a meaning. She thought it was quite simple, but her friend Zaza Darmaun, a lively smart girl, who was one of the most intelligent students in their class, would find the idea a difficult one.
Marjorie would explain, “It depends on you to give value to your life. You invent the meaning you want to give it.”
Zaza would contort her forehead and squeeze her eyes in a manner that made her look like an old lady. In spite of her facial contortions, she could not grasp the concept. .
“It’s not that you don’t understand, Zaza. You just don’t want to accept it,” Marjorie would contest.
“How can such a bright mind like yours think of something so depressing, Marjout?”
And that was the point that neither of them would agree about. For Marjorie, the concept wasn’t depressing at all.
“Zaza, what I’m saying is that life has no meaning, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to live it.What I’m saying Zaza is that life has no meaning, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to live it. The meaning comes within.”
Marjorie missed Zaza. That’s why she decided to take a walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg. They used to meet there on Sunday evenings whenever they could but not as often as they would like. Zaza had been a bourgeois mademoiselle with an overwhelming agenda of family obligations. Obligations that would often discourage her studies to the annoyance of Marjorie. Zaza was brilliant, the type of person you could listen to for hours. Anyone would fall for her bravery and cleverness.
In fact, the freshness that the Jardin brought to her had nothing to do with the people, the trees, or the weather. The sentiment came from the memories of her teen years and her bold friend. Zaza used to say the Jardin was “always crowded and noisy.” It was her way to discourage whoever would try to join them. The girls never revealed their secret spot to others.
The place was sacred for the girls. They would walk up to the northeast corner of the park and sit by the Medici Fountain. The area was quiet and solitary. It was away from the children’s carousel and far from the pond filled with children chasing the small wooden sailboats. Loud tourists couldn’t be heard at that point in the Jardin.
Zaza sounded awful the last time they came to the Jardin together. Her attitude was nothing like the joyful girl Marjorie met when she was ten-years-old. She was desperate and suffering from the most brutal plague in the world: love.