Review of Crowdsourcing Paris by Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting promises us to accomplish twelve adventures in Paris in order to finally write a life changing book. Successful at teaching people to write books, he longs for finding the time and the right atmosphere for writing a great novel himself.

On the occasion of his 85-year-old Grandmother’s wedding in Florence in the spring some five years ago, Joe suggests to his wife they could travel to Europe some months in advance in order for them to spend some time in Paris together with their ten-month-old son. This would be his opportunity to live the writer’s life in Paris and to write a travelogue in the style of Hemingway.

‘All I wanted out of Paris was to sit in café’s, to soak in the atmosphere, to people watch to my heart’s content, and describe all my surroundings and emotions while doing it, the way Hemingway did’.

Joe Bunting

Knowing all this, what do I expect when I order his book from Amazon, when the postman delivers a package almost two weeks later. At this point I, one of many readers, expect to read a novel. As a writer Joe’s promise makes me fantasize about going to Paris myself and write great fiction.

How well did this book deliver what it promised?

In the first Chapter Joe tells us about Max, a very honest friend of his, and his very supporting father-in-law. Max told him this book idea wouldn’t be very exiting to read about. And his father-in-law suggested, because Paris itself isn’t adventurous enough, to have a whole series of adventures,.

Joe himself is also very honest. This whole idea of having adventures sounds horrible to him. He loves comfort, security and routines. Joe wants to live the life of a great writer, to create memories, create markers in other peoples lives by writing, his work being part of how people define themselves, again like Hemingway did. To him the idea of going to Paris with his wife and baby son would be adventure enough. Moreover he was $600 short. Joe himself is quite anti-adventure. He reasons: adventures only distract a writer from that deep soul work he can only do in solitude and stillness.

Feeling buried in the expectations of a hundred thousand readers of his website and the pressure of his responsibility for his young family Joe starts doubting his intentions, he starts feeling like a fraud, thinks the whole idea is stupid.

He decides to try crowdsource his trip to Paris by asking his readers from for suggestions. They respond enthusiastically in such a way that Joe feels obliged not to disappoint his audience and to follow through with this.

After four days in Paris he realizes that while he truly has no idea what he is doing there, while he feels out of his depth, lost in the darkness of his own adventure, he also knows the worse it wil get for him the better the story will be afterward.

This is the point where he promises the reader the adventure will become worse. I am curious how bad it will get. I wonder why I am not reading a great fiction story. I must have been mistaken. Joe is telling another story.

And then there’s the point when I understand what Joe really wants to accomplish, what he really wants to happen for his readers.

What Joe actually does is greater than the scope of the book itself. A reader of Crowdsourcing Paris takes part in the adventures in Paris as he reads Joe’s story from cover to cover. Joe starts out with a dream. He shares his dream with his Writers Group. He travels to Paris where he will try to accomplish some adventures. He wants to write. Which he does. Although he and his wife are having a hard time in Paris, feeling quite lonely, not able to have as much time to enjoy themselves like tourists can and do; because they are having difficulty to make ends meet; because this big city, it’s difficult language; because the nurturing of their baby son who feels the tension from his young parents and responds to it by being a handful at that time; because doing out of character-adventures that make him feel awkward, not very satisfied with his writing output at that time.

But Joe isn’t writing this book just to let us hear about his uncomfortable adventures, he hopes to be able to inspire his readers and members of The Write Practice to go on their own adventures, in order to write about them and in order to become better writers. What he actually does is challenge them.

And that he does perfectly! Joe is a great teacher. He wants to write. He needs to teach. He teaches people to become better writers, he teaches people how to write books and finish their book-ideas and he teaches people to publish their writing.

This becomes visible at that very moment in the memoir at the end of chapter One where he writes about the challenges he will try to accomplish. He boomerangs the challenges he got from his readers right back to them.

He also teaches the members of The Write Practice How to Launch a Book like Crowdsourcing Paris. Long before he finishes his book and from the moment the book is self-published and launched, he starts teaching them by doing. In that he’s a great and a very brave role-model. And as a bonus for reading his memoir and for supporting him (as good members of a writing group should do), he starts teaching them How to Write a Memoir themselves.

What if a Cautious Writer has a very hard time trying to live the life of a great writer in Paris?

What if this man is a great teacher?

It is expected the Cautious Writer gets into trouble doing all kinds of out-of-character adventures.

It is expected he and his Very Supporting and Very Brave wife will have a lovely time in Paris.

It is unexpected this is more difficult than they thought, because of their ten-month-old son being quite a handful at that time. That might be so because little children can feel when and respond all in their own way to their parents having a stressful experience.

It is unexpected that Paris isn’t that friendly for them, in the way they experience it.

It is unexpected the reader gets to know Joe so much better. Probably all readers will be touched by the fact that the main character of the book is so honest about his insecurities and flaws and mistakes. It’s quite intimate. It makes him a lovable character.

It is unexpected to me that Joe shares intimate moments in his life with his wife. It makes me feel a bit lonely myself, because it makes me long for a warm, durable, lovable relationship that deepens and deepens because of the effort (both adventure and work) that is put into it, not just from one side, but from both sides.

It is unexpected to me this book turned out to be a memoir to learn from How to Write a Memoir myself.

It is unexpected to me Writing a Memoir is a great way of coping with some particular kind of Writers’ Block. What I really want is to write great fiction. Joe helped me establish a great writing habit. I write a lot. I write very regularly. I feel inspired all the time. Joe helped me work out a well crafted premisse, bookplan and synopsis into a very satisfying first draft. Joe helped me edit this first draft into a very promising second draft. But because life has thrown me some misfortune in my face and at my feet, and the consequences of that misfortune tends to pop up and sit on my shoulder and standing in the way, this great, satisfying endeavor gets more delay than I like.

Now the story I don’t want to tell, I don’t want to write about, I don’t want to publish, a story I want to get rid of as soon as possible, might have a lesson that I might want to tell or share. And choosing a particular situation, and discovering, uncovering this particular lesson, and writing about that in a professional manner at times it pops up uninvitedly, might be even therapeutic in a way, might give me the space to focus on writing something completely different, to focus on the more creative, more fulfilling, more lovely, fantastic, exiting, adventurous things I do want to tell, share or teach.

So Thank You Joe Bunting! It’s much more than I expected, much more than I hoped for, much more than you promised.

Happy Writing,

Suzanne Ruiter

Een man als Joe

Aan de muur bij mijn werktafel hangen foto’s van Nomsa, Joe, Ruby, Prosper en van mijn moeder Audrey. En van nog een paar mensen die me inspireren door wie ze zijn, wat ze voor mij betekenen, de dingen die ze doen, de keuzes die ze maken, de stappen die ze zetten. Nooit eerder omringde ik me met foto’s. Ze brachten me in de problemen. Dat associatieve vermogen en die duizelingwekkende fijngevoeligheid, dat caleidoscopische perspectief op de dingen, maken me vaak genoeg onrustig. Rust is nodig, helder licht, helder water. In kalmte werk ik het beste en meest gefocust, komt dat talent van mij het beste tot z’n recht. Besluitvaardigheid komt dan moeiteloos. Niet bang om fouten te maken.

Joe and me in Paris 17-18-july-2018-BC6A0828_full

Een man als Joseph. Iets in zijn verleden had hem op dit pad gebracht. En verschillende omstandigheden hadden mij dit pad doen kruisen, waarna ik wist dat dit ook mijn weg was, al kwam het niet voor op de oorspronkelijke kaart waar ik over beschikte. Daarom tekende ik ‘m direct na mijn ontdekking in. En het was heel fijn dat Joe daar liep.

Heel vanzelfsprekend  liepen we met elkaar op en we raakten gemakkelijk met elkaar in gesprek. Het was begonnen met een vraag die ik hem stelde. Zijn antwoord was een verademing vergeleken bij de antwoorden die ik eerder op zo’n vraag had gekregen. Zijn antwoord was geen riedeltje, noch een raadsel. Hij maakte bovendien oogcontact. Zijn stem klonk me plezierig in de oren, zijn timbre raakte een snaar.

Terwijl hij me de hand reikte, toen we liepen op een oneffen ondergrond, stelde hij me een wedervraag en luisterde aandachtig naar het antwoord dat ik formuleerde. Het kwam vlot en spontaan, maar was ook bedachtzaam, omdat ik, terwijl ik sprak, naar hem bleef luisteren en kijken. Het had kunnen bezinken, dus het inzicht verraste ons allebei door de rust en helderheid waarmee het nu werd verwoord.

Joe had hier vaker gelopen. Terwijl ik mijn hand in zijn uitnodigende hand legde en we samen als een galante, geoefende danser en een charmante, bevallige, maar minder geoefende en daardoor wat onzekere danseres, namen we toch heel behendig wat hobbels en bobbels, struikelden we bijna over wortels van de oude bomen langs het pad, en omzeilden we wat kuilen en plassen van regenbuien van gisteren. We raakten dieper en dieper in gesprek. We lachten. Zo nu en dan zochten we elkaars ogen, die ook iets zochten op onze gezichten. Soms om beurten, dan weer tegelijkertijd. We zeiden over en weer eerlijke, ware dingen en luisterden naar elkaar. Soms waren we ook gewoon een hele tijd stil.

Er kwam natuurlijk een moment waarop we ons allebei ineens realiseerden dat we die dag nog andere dingen te doen hadden. We namen afscheid en gingen elk ons weegs. Ik zag aan de glans in zijn ogen en de stille pauze, dat hij ook wist, wenste, dat we elkaar weer zouden zien. Hij spreidde zijn armen en omhelsde me, hartelijk en respectvol, op z’n Amerikaans. We hadden al die tijd Engels gepraat en ik had het niet eens gemerkt.

Crowdsourcing Paris – Joe Bunting

October 22. 2019 I wrote Joe this message:

Dear Joe, Congratulations on the launch of Crowdsourcing Paris today. You did it! So proud of you. Thanks for sharing some of your adventures (and also a lovely lunch) with me in La Coutume and seeing the sun rise the next day, having a real good time with Joanne and Brian making that trailer. That I’ll never forget. Love and appreciation, best regards, Suzanne

Some days later Joe replied:

Hey Suzanne! Thank you so much. It’s been a looong time coming, and that moment in Paris was a memorable part of the journey. Appreciate you and your friendship! Joe