I can write you a story, teach you French, or sing you a song.

Thoughts on Bienvenue

After a visit with my parents last February, I brought my old computer home with me. When I say “old,” I do mean old. We’re talking about a desktop computer manufactured in 1991 with enough hard drive space to hold maybe a quarter of what is on my laptop and, most importantly, MS-DOS and Windows 3.1.

Yes, I am that old.

You know you're a 90s kid if you remember this.....

You know you’re a 90s kid if you remember this…..

 

So why all this talk about old computers?

Because the last time I booted up that computer was in the late 90s, when I was in late elementary school going into middle school. And on that computer were all of my old stories. 

When I wasn’t sucked into a book or playing outside making up countries and languages (I was a language nerd even then!), I used that old computer as my hub of entertainment. I spent more hours than I could ever count just writing stories about people. Well, and I also played games. Raise your hand if you’ve ever played Math Rescue, Word Rescue, Commander Keen, Hocus Pocus, Jazz Jackrabbit, and other shareware games. Ohhhhhhh yeah…..

Doo doo do-do-do doo!

Doo doo do-do-do doo!

 

But we’re not hear to wax nostalgic about that.

You see, on that old computer were a group of stories that I wrote about a group of friends in my age group who traveled together. I called them The Travel Club. I had read the Babysitters Club series from cover to cover, even rereading my favorites several times over. Inspired by those books, I wanted to write a similar set of stories. The friendship aspect was particularly important to me. Being a loner kind of kid, I didn’t have a close-knit group of friends of my own at school, so I wanted to live vicariously through my characters. I wanted to know what it was like to be a part of a group of girls who all spent time together and shared things.

However, I wanted my stories to be different from the BSC. I decided, why not take my girls on traveling adventures? 

I wanted to see the world, and this was my way of doing so.

So over the course of a dozen different stories, Nellie Tryke, Patty McIop, Lavinia Sharp, Myoko Nevern, and Anna Anderson traveled to France, Texas, and Japan. Never mind that I had never been to those places. In retrospect, the stories were very unrealistic (unlimited funds and time, for one thing), but hey, I was a kid having fun writing. If I had been bogged down in realistic details, the stories wouldn’t have flourished the way they did. Who thinks about time and money when you’re a kid anyway?

In addition to traveling, I wrote Travel Club stories set in their school where the girls had to deal with more humdrum aspects of teenage life, such as dating and family relations. I stopped after a few stories because I upgraded to a newer computer, so the stories sat on that old hard drive collecting dust.

And I forgot about them until last year.

During my visit, I booted up that old computer for curiosity’s sake. I played an older version of Oregon Trail and a European geography game I remember buying with my dad at a computer show. The game is so old that it still had Bonn listed as the capital of Germany, Czechoslovakia was still a country, and the Balkan countries had not broken up yet. After amusing myself with those old programs, I decided to check out the stories I wrote. They were still on there too, all loaded in Ami Pro.

So I began to pull those old stories off the computer hard drive before it self-destructed from age. I was still surprised that the computer still loaded, considering how old it was. Most notably, I saved as many of those Travel Club stories as I could to a floppy disk, since the computer is so old that there were no USB ports yet.

 

OK now you're really making me feel old.... Someone hand me my dentures please.

Someone hand me my dentures please. I’m feeling old….

 

When I brought the computer home with me (200 miles in the car strapped in to the back seat belts), I was eager to boot it up and show my husband my old computer. The thing that I spent hours typing stories on. My entertainment center. My beacon of 90sness.

It wouldn’t load.

The fan started up, but not the hard drive.

No amount of hooking the hard drive up to other sources would work.

In short, the stories were gone. Every last one of them.

For a two-decade old computer, it sure lasted a lot longer than expected. I have no idea what really happened. It loaded fine at home but not at my house. Maybe the car ride jostled it too much and it just couldn’t boot anymore. Or it was just plain too old. I will never know.

Since the stories were gone, I knew I had to do something with those Travel Club stories so that they could live on somehow. So at the urging of my husband Andrew, I decided to revive those stories. If they couldn’t live on in their original Ami Pro-ness, then I would take the original idea and update it. Make it more realistic. More modern.

In short, turn it into this:

 

Bienvenue cover (small)

 

I usually say that I am proud of whatever I have just written. A lot of authors say that. Here’s the thing. I don’t say that to appeal to emotions. I say that because I truly am proud of any story I write. The hours that go in to planning the story, writing, revising, writing, revising again, watching my characters grow in sometimes unexpected ways (Lavinia’s phone call to her mum at the end of the story, for example, was not planned), and just watching something come to life that didn’t exist before, are why I write. There’s a scene in Saturday in the Park with George that shows the painter speaking a line and suddenly an image of a plant pops up on stage. That’s how the creativity process feels for me. You say a word and something comes into existence that wasn’t there before. And I love that. I live for that happy feeling of creation.

Boy, if twelve-year-old me who wrote those stories in Ami Pro could see what I’d done with those ideas, and especially to see them published for anyone to read, I know she would be doing a Snoopy happy dance all over the room. That’s what I did yesterday when I got the e-mail that Amazon approved the Kindle edition and that it was now available! All the hard work. And now it’s here.

And this is only the beginning of their stories. Trust me. I have quite a bit of adventure planned for Nellie, Lavinia, Patty, Miyoko, and Anna!

Click here to purchase Bienvenue for Kindle (will be available in paperback soon).

Thoughts on “Dominique”

Four years ago, I was sitting alone in the teacher’s lounge of a school where I worked as an itinerant teacher for the TAG (Talented and Gifted) students. I had some time to kill until my next class. I had already planned my beginner French lessons for the students for the next month and wanted to think about something besides work. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet and I already wanted to go home.

“How about I translate a portion of that novel I just finished reading?” I thought to myself. “Just for fun. I’ve never tried to translate a book before. The book is from the 1800s so it’s probably on Project Gutenberg for me to look at.”

That fleeting moment of boredom turned into a two and a half year project: my first attempt at translating an entire novel.

What you have to understand about that undertaking is that until then, I had only translated short pop songs for my friends. Pop songs. Not many words.

But one paragraph turned into a chapter, which turned into a “I might as well just translate the whole thing, why not??”

80,000 words later, well, what an project that turned out to be.

Not only did my French improve, but also my ability to render French thoughts into readable and understandable English did as well. Translating is more than just looking at a sentence and plugging the words into their second language equivalents. There’s meaning, tone, sometimes historical context, and style of words to consider. Language is such a human invention that it’s no wonder things like Google Translate, while getting better in how they, well, translate what you copy and paste into the box, can only do so much in conveying what is really being said. Think of the Bible and the multitudinous translations that have been done of that one work. And each one is different in the tone and choice of words.

When I decided to translate this novel, I had to really think about HOW I would translate Eugène Fromentin’s work. Would I keep the very formal French or would I try for something more contemporary (but not including lols or something of the like!)? And most of all, could I actually translate this thing, given that I had no experience in translating something of that length before?

Well, I did.

Was it easy? Sometimes it was, other times, it was a pain in the neck. I’ve become so bilingual that whole paragraphs I understood well in French were hard to put into comprehensible English. I also had to be consistent with the style that I had chosen: formal 1920s instead of stiff 1800s. I wanted to keep the style as comprehensible to modern audiences as possible.

Then….. well, I’m not going to lie. The character of Dominique needed serious psychiatric help. And I was stuck with him for two hundred plus pages.

Nonetheless, despite its literary flaws (an unreliable narrator who could be infuriating at times, not really getting to know the main love interest Madeleine), I fell in love with the poetic language that Fromentin used throughout the book. It’s obvious that he was a painter from the way he described the landscapes where Dominique spent his childhood. I felt like I was right there with Dominique as he explored the countryside. Since I am a poet myself, I felt like I would do especially well with translating those passages. And as painful as those passages of self-deprecation were, they were so vivid that I could really feel Dominique’s pain of unrequited love.

Two hundred plus pages and two and a half years of working off and on, I finished it at last! And then I sat on it for a while because I knew it needed another read-through and edit, but I had already moved on to other projects. Thanks to edits from my husband and me, I at last uploaded the files and put them on Amazon for all to read.

And I could not be prouder of my work. What began as a momentary assignment to keep myself occupied turned into a huge project! And now, English readers will get to lose themselves in this beautifully written story, as I did when I read it in the original French. Sadly, Eugène Fromentin is quite an obscure author, even to native French speakers (the woman whose house I stayed in during my stay in France had never heard of him, neither had my French professors at my university in Tours). Now he can at least be known to English speakers.

 

Click here to purchase my English translation of Dominique on paperback

Click here to purchase my English translation of Dominique for Amazon Kindle

Cantare in italiano

After playing the clarinet since fifth grade, I was ready for something new. When my sophomore year of high school rolled around, I decided to join the high school choir instead of continuing with band. My parents didn’t mind what school activity my brother and I did, as long as we did something we liked.

Since our high school chorus was a performance-based class, we students didn’t receive individual attention from the teacher beyond “oh you have a low voice, join the bass section,” or “you have a low voice, go with the altos.” (That was me.) So my mom signed me up for voice lessons.

Every week for two and a half years, I went to Mrs. Baldwin’s home for voice lessons. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I learned how to breathe properly, how to enunciate, and what my range was, but most of all, I learned how to sing in a foreign language.

My two favorite classes in high school were French and chorus. No surprise there for this proud music and language nerd. So I delighted in singing songs in Italian. Not only is it beautiful, but also Italian is one of the easiest languages to sing in, bar none. Ah eh ee oh oo. That’s it. So much easier than English when it comes to vowels.

Singing Italian art songs and arias as a teenager led me to choosing to take Italian language classes when I entered in college. As a French major, I was required to take another foreign language. Oh no. *sarcasm* Everyone else took Spanish, so I went for Italian to be different. I could’ve really gone for different and chosen Hebrew or Arabic, but I wanted to stick with a Romance language.

I took two years and a half years of Italian and loved it! While the similarities in vocabulary with French helped me with my learning (the verb manger means “to eat.” So does mangiare), I loved the language enough on its own. There is a reason that so many operas are written in that language. It’s musical and sounds gorgeous. The grammar at times was also different enough from French that I felt like I was learning something new, i.e. the placement of direct object pronouns and the more frequent use of present participles. I considered myself not fluent but conversational by the time I finished Italian 301. I got the gist of Italian pop songs and I could read basic Italian.

Then I forgot most of what I learned.

You know what they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. That was my Italian knowledge. I didn’t find a use for what I’d learned. I haven’t been to Italy yet. One day. My French knowledge stayed, of course. After all, I teach it all the time, so it’s kind of hard to forget that!

Then I got an idea a few days ago.

One of my favorite singers, Eliza Rickman, wrote about a challenge given to her from her producer Jason Webley. He challenged her to write a song on an instrument that she had never played before. She came away with not one but two songs that day, written on the ukelele, which she hadn’t picked up before that day.

I thought to myself, That’s a cool idea, writing a song with something you’ve never tried before! Why not try writing a song in a language you’ve never written in before? I had been meaning to keep up with my Italian anyway. And I could still form basic sentences, enough to teach the basics to someone. Why not give it a try?

I am proud to say that today, I wrote my first song in Italian.

What was it like to practice a song in Italian?

Well, it goes without saying again that what a musical language Italian is! And SO easy to rhyme in! Unless it’s a foreign word like il bar, most words in Italian end in either -a, -e, -i, -o, or -u. So creating a rhyme scheme was easy peasy lemon squeezie (or however that last word is spelled!). I wrote a basic draft of some lyrics in a little under an hour, then music was put to it in about forty minutes. Not bad!

And of course, I will be sharing this song later, once I’ve practiced it a few more times! Who knows if it will make my next album. I really enjoyed the process nonetheless! I got to brush up on a language that I don’t speak everyday, and I have a beautiful song to play too!

Who knows? I might end up writing an album’s worth of songs in Italian in the future!

 

– –

 

Speaking of songs and such…. My collection of Italian music isn’t as extensive as my French music collection, but I do have some favorites. When I began learning Italian, I sought out as much (modern) Italian music as I could, like what I did when I learned French. Italian music, however, was not as easy to come by as French music.

Elisa is hands-down my favorite Italian singer, not just because she’s actually one of the few Italian singers to write and sing most of her material in English. She has an amazing voice that can be soft and vulnerable but also powerful and emotional. I also got to meet her a few years ago ( :D :D ) but that’s a story for another time!

 

Here’s one of my favorite Italian songs of hers, called Luce (Tramonti a nord est) which means Light (Northeastern sunsets):

I also enjoy Laura Pausini, who is more known here in the U.S. for her Spanish albums. She records each of her albums in Spanish as well as in her native Italian. Given the large Hispanic population here in the U.S., her Spanish records are easier to find. I, however, prefer her in Italian. Her music is a bit more adult contemporary than much of what I listen to, but for clear diction and interesting lyrics, I like her music. And she has a killer voice!

This is probably my favorite, called La prospettiva di me or My perspective. I love the lyrics, which talk about getting away from a bad relationship and striking it out on your own, finding your own perspective on things:

And OK, because I couldn’t choose between two songs, here is my second favorite of Laura Pausini’s, a cover of a 70s song called Io canto, which means I sing, and is the title track of the album of the same name. What I like about Io canto the album is that its a covers album full of songs that I don’t already know. So I’m not making constant comparisons between her version and the original. What it has done is expose me to more Italian music! :-)

And now, here’s Io canto.

Another Year Older!

They say that you are only as old as you feel.

Today, I may be another year older, but goodness knows I don’t feel (and look!) like it!

For the record, today I’m turning 30! It’s really hard to believe, to be honest, that I’m turning 30. I know that I feel different. Goodness knows I’m a far happier person than I was the last time I turned an age divisible by 10! I know I am. I can feel it and see it in my face.

But I don’t feel 30!

The only way I feel 30 is that I’m far more comfortable in my skin than I have ever been. I’ve never been happier with myself! I’ve found what makes me happy (speaking French, making music, writing), I no longer cringe when looking in the mirror at myself, I’m a LOT more patient, and most of all, I enjoy the gifts that God has given me, such as my ability to pick up a foreign language without much difficulty, my musical talents, and my writing. Everyone has their own talents and what they are good at. I have found mine and I’m happier than ever with them. They are a part of who I am and I should not hide them from the world.

As for looking 30….. yeah, no I don’t look 30! :P I’ve never looked my age. When I was a teenager, I always looked younger. I hated it! Because when you’re young, you want to look older. Then when you’re older, you want to look young. It’s weird how that works. You always think the grass is greener, I guess. Everyone tells me that looking young is a good thing when you’re older. I’ll take their word for it! :D

In any case, I’m looking forward to what 30 will bring. It will be even better than 29! :D

New Website

Welcome one and all to the new Cecilee Linke (dot com). This new site is designed to highlight Cecilee’s tutoring services and make it easy for clients to get in contact with her.

Cecilee is also at work adapting her lessons into a format that can be easily viewed online. Once this is done all clients will be given the option to register at this site to review all material between lessons or even look ahead and learn at an accelerated pace. This registration will, of course, be free to current tutoring clients. Those of you who do not live in the Hampton Roads area will also be able to register for remote lessons delivered through this website and online conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts and Skype. Online lessons will be offered at at discounted rate.

We look forward to helping you learn French!

-Cecilee and the website guy.