What It's Like To Live At A Bookstore In Paris

    "One minute I was a visitor just like any other, and the next minute I was welcomed in to this huge, historic community of writers and expatriates."

    1. Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookstore in Paris that caters to English-language readers.

    2. The shop has also served as a home to wandering literary types called Tumbleweeds since the 1950s.

    3. Molly Dektar, a 23-year-old MFA student at Brooklyn College, lived at Shakespeare and Company in January and June 2013.

    4. "One minute I was a visitor just like any other, and the next minute I was welcomed in to this huge, historic community of writers and expatriates," she explained.

    5. Tumbleweeds also have to write a one-page autobiography of their life, including a photo.

    6. A typical day for Tumbleweeds starts with breakfast on the go, organizing their work shifts, and making sure the shop is ready to open.

    7. "I aimed to read a book a day but it wasn't entirely possible," Molly said. "Still, the goal is spiritually important and should be taken seriously."

    8. "At 10:45 p.m., the Tumbleweeds would gather again for closing," Molly explained. "Some nights we'd stay in, other nights we'd go out."

    9. "I always liked going to the piano room during the day, and finding hordes of strangers sitting on the bench that became my bed at night," Molly said.

    10. "The most beautiful Tumbleweed bed is the one above the children's section, behind the velvet drapes," she explained. "But everyone had their preferences."

    11. All the Tumbleweeds have to share a single key, which can lead to some complications.

    12. Visitors can take any book off the shelves to read for however long they like without being pressured into buying it.

    13. "I found the Tumbleweeds and staff all very intimidating at first, because they tend to have huge knowledge about literature," Molly said. "The shop has such an illustrious history, I felt very small inside it."

    14. "But George used to call Shakespeare and Company 'a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore,' and sharing, cooperation, and community are fundamental to the people living there," she said.

    15. "We found so much to do together that we'd joke that there's probably no worse place to write in Paris than at the bookshop," she said.

    16. "The handmade paintings and illustrations labeling the shop's various sections seems very much like Sylvia to me — beautiful and real things out in the open for everyone to enjoy, with a sense of faith in humankind."

    17. Molly told BuzzFeed the best thing about staying there was the sense of trust and community. "Because it's such a rare and lucky experience, the shop brings out everyone's best side — people are creative and selfless and fascinating."

    18. "But more than that, there's this feeling that things are better when they are shared," she said.

    19. "As I always remembered when I saw the crowds beginning to enter the shop in the morning to invade what I thought of as my bed, you can't own any part of the shop or its beautiful tradition, but you can take part in it," said Molly.

    20. "I think every Tumbleweed ends up with a more optimistic sense of human nature."

    21. Molly always encourages any young writer who thinks this sounds appealing to check it out for themselves. "But don't expect your experience to go a certain way," she said. "Be willing to go with the favorable winds."

    You can find more of Molly Dektar's photos and writing over at her blog.