In October of 2010, six writers (five students and one teacher) descended on a little town in France called Essoyes.
Below: Outside Janet’s French Ranch in Essoyes 2010, Janet Hulstrand second from right, Karin Knappstein Doglioni third from right.
The town of Essoyes is most famous for its resident, Pierre Renoir, an impressionist artist whose studio is now open for tours, and whose burial site is in a small community graveyard along with the town’s ancestors, and young men sacrificed to battle in the World Wars.
Below: Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Burial Site
Due to transportation strikes, not uncommon in France, I arrived early, as did three more of us staying in the nearby town of Troyes before our designated arrival date in Essoyes.
It was a gorgeous autumn. The sky was bluer than I’d ever seen it, and the sun lit the stone architecture as if dripping golden honey on every surface. For the first day in Troyes, I was perfectly alone, absorbing sights, sounds, smells, voices, and ambiance.
The following evening I met three other lovely ladies from different corners of the globe. One of them was a very chic blonde with a black suit coat draped across her shoulders. She had a bit of an accent, but I’m from the South in America. Everyone who doesn’t say y’all in standard issue greetings has an accent to me.
Speaking English, French, and Spanish, she carried herself with a regal presence, and possessed the ability to communicate with the locals as if born there. We became instant friends, as did all six of us.
(We even had a reunion five years later and I featured Lena Lonigro on the posts from that trip.)
Unfortunately, Karin wasn’t able to make the reunion trip, but we’ve remained in contact, and she has recently been published in a Costa Rican online newspaper called QCOSTARICA, not once, but twice.
Karin Knappstein Doglioni is well-traveled, and previously shared her stories with only those closest to her. I have been fortunate to be one of these people, as she has a wonderfully unique voice and some vibrant tales from all her journeys and life split between Paris and San Jose.
I’ve been asking, okay, badgering, her to allow me to feature her on reneejohnsonwrites, and she has finally succumbed to my pleading. So, dear readers, allow me to introduce my friend and fellow Essoyes alumnus, Karin Knappstein Doglioni.
Renee: Hi Karin. Your second piece was just published in Q Costa Rica: http://qcostarica.com/in-the-days-when-flying-was-fun/. Your articles and essays are wonderful reminiscences of your extraordinary life. Do you still recall them this vividly by memory, or do you have journals from these early days?
Karin: No I did not make journals at the time. These powerful experiences were engraved in my mind, as they were so out of this world, namely my world as a very young chick from Canada. That is probably the reason I can remember them very so vividly to this day.
Renee: We met in Troyes, France in October of 2010 just before embarking on a stint at the Essoyes School in Essoyes, France. What was the impetus to your joining this class?
Karin: I joined the group because first of all I was in Paris at the time (My second husband is French and we have an apartment in Paris) and secondly my friend Ann Wildey from Costa Rica had introduced me to the course as she was attending. I never considered myself a great writer (and still don’t) so I figured I could certainly learn from that, as I thought it would come in handy if one day I decided to write all this down – seeing as my family urged me to do that over the years.
Renee: Our class was especially talented and we’re all still writing and publishing in some form. What did you gain from your time in Essoyes that added to your success?
Karin: Actually I learned a lot. First, of course from our excellent Professor Janet Hulstrand, and also from the other ladies attending. Indeed it was a very unusual group, as all had a lot of life experience behind them, and not of the easy kind either. I also want to mention at this time, that I never had, nor have, the aspirations to become some acclaimed writer. I just wanted to learn to put these stories into an interesting format, and as Janet insisted, “Keep writing. Just the act of writing makes you a writer.” So if that is not logic, what is?
Renee: You have such a wonderful voice, and a style all your own. What does this mean to you?
Karin: People have always insisted that I was a good story teller. Now that has, I believe, its reasons. As I tell these particular tales, I relive them. I am simply a person addicted to life on this miraculously wonderful and beautiful planet that is horrifically disappearing in front of our eyes.
Renee: Did you expect to become published or was this a nice surprise after putting together some delicious travel stories?
Karin: No. I never expected, nor wanted to get published. It was just meant for family consumption. But then here in Costa Rica, one will find many retirees who decided to become writers in their Golden Years, and then join a myriad of writers groups.
I do not belong to any of them, but a friend Chris Clark does. I had shown him one of my stories a while ago, which he deemed worthy of interest to others. So he asked me if I was willing to have this published in an online news publication. I thought this was funny, and on a lark said yes. So here we go. Now I have to get busy and write some more. Good thing I have a good friend, Joan Dewar, who does some effective editing for me.
Renee: What advice do you have for other writers?
Karin: I don’t have any advice to other writers whatsoever! I AM THE ONE NEEDING ADVICE!
Renee: How has being published changed or enhanced you?
Karin: Being published was a surprise, and gave me the impetus to Keep writing.
Renee: Describe your writing space: favorite time and place to set down thoughts.
Karin: My writing space is my little office here in our townhouse in San Jose, Costa Rica. While I write, I look out the window upon a very large old Ficus Tree that is always busy with fluttering and noisy tropical birds, butterflies, etc. Never a dull moment!
Sadly, I am not much of a disciplined person, so no regular writing hours to report. I do have a lot of other interests. I do art work in different media, and travel around the country with its fascinating and varied landscape.
Renee: Do you see these wonderful stories as being part of your memoir, and if so, when can we expect to see this from you?
Karin: No I do not contemplate to write a regular memoir. I just consider these tales a part of my Travelogue through Life.
Renee: Thank you so much, dear Karin, for sharing a bit of your journey to publication.
Renee Johnson is the author of Behind The Mask, Herald Angels, Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.
Renee, Thank you for badgering Karin into this interview! And thanks to both you and Karin for the nice things you have said about Writing from the Heart in Essoyes, and about my teaching/coaching. This means so much to me!
But it means much more to see both of you telling your stories, sharing your wisdom, your insights, your life experiences, each in your own way, with others. This is what is at the heart of writing from the heart. (And dare I say that is what is at the heart of living from the heart too? 🙂 )
Thank you, Janet. I think I can speak for all of us in the 2010 class, and say without a doubt, we were immensely fortunate to have taken this journey together. We are also immeasurably rewarded with support, friendship, and the courage to tell our stories! You planted seeds that are still sprouting. Well done!
I’m envious of your trip. Karin is wonderful. Thank you for introducing us to her.