Wednesday, September 30, 2009

10X10 Art Show in Brunswick, Maine

Can you believe that tomorrow is October? It’s almost time for the10X10 Art Exhibit and Sale to benefit Arts Are Elementary. AAE  is a non-profit organization that brings artists to Brunswick public elementary schools. The show opens on Friday October 9th at 5pm and will be up until the end of the month. Poster art "Circles" embroidered by Kimberly Christensen at Spindleworks.

When my daughter was in 4th grade, visiting artists helped the kids create unique claymation movies.  My friend Charlotte Agell, an author-illustrator, works with first graders to make picture books and also contributes to the AAE show. There are many other artists participating. It’s a wonderful supplement to the curriculum.

I blogged about the first annual 10X10 Art Show last year. Despite opening in the wake of the stock market crash,  the townspeople showed strong support.  I sold a painting last year and have a new one in this year’s exhibit. All works are 10 by 10 inches, come framed and priced at $200.

Artists include a statement with their work. Here's mine for this year:

“Lookout Point, Harpswell” watercolor by Sarah Laurence

Rain made this a challenging summer to paint "en plein air." One evening in late August, the light was perfect. I drove to Harpswell because it was close to my home. I’d visited Lookout Point three years ago while researching lobstering for my novel S.A.D.

It was indeed a perfect spot to paint. The goldenrod was blooming and lobster pots were bobbing as the high tide reversed. I had to work quickly in the fading light. As the setting sun shot rays under thick clouds, my palette shifted to pinks, golds and purples. The colors truly were that amazing.  

A painting on location captures a protracted moment in time (eg. the full sunset) whereas a photo would only capture an instant. This is why I work from life.  

Above is my photo of the same island (to right) at a different angle and time of day. The camera sees differently than the eye.  The wide angle lens flattens out the coastal landscape. The water appears more stagnant. The light is flat.  Some images are better captured with watercolor, some with the camera. I prefer to keep them separate, as opposed to painting from a photograph.

Every artist has a unique vision, and the 10X10 captures this diversity so well. The aquatic theme on my blog is a coincidence - Brunswick is a coastal town. Here's a sneak preview from 2 more artists:

"Red Reflection" gouache on wood pannel by Will Wilkoff

"Red Drum" textile art by Catherine Worthington

Benefit Art Exhibit and Sale
Friday Oct. 9, 5pm-8pm
and Saturday Oct. 10, 10am-4pm
Brunswick, Maine
3 venues: 

1. Morrell Meeting Room at Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St.
2. Points of View Gallery in Brunswick Business Center, 18 Pleasant St.
3. Gallery Framing, 12 Pleasant St

All artwork priced $200 and ready to hang to benefit AAE

There are 300 pieces by 130 Maine artists.  My art is in venue #1.

Press: 10X10 Art Show in the Times Record newspaper.
My painting is there too!

Blog Watch:
  • If you are a Google blogger, check out the updated post editor.  From your dashboard, select “settings” and then the “basics” tab.  Down at the bottom is “Global Settings.” If you have  “old editor,” try “updated editor.” It makes adding multiple photos to your blog much easier.  From the preview box, you can place the photo exactly where you want in the text, resize and change alignment easily.  It also gives a post preview that looks exactly like it will when published. Finally!
Note: images reproduced by permission of the artists and under copyright.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

as u like it

Ready for a revelation? I just finished writing my first young adult novel. In “as u like it” the themes of a Shakespeare play echo in the teen actors’ lives. The plot and characters are original, and the story is set now in NYC. The tone is light and entertaining.

For “as u like it” I drew on my experience growing up in Manhattan. My twelve-year-old daughter helped me make the characters sound up to date. I have tons of material with a tween girl and a teenaged boy living in my house. It was so much fun being able to work on a book with my daughter.

My children introduced me to the fabulous world of young adult literature that has blossomed since Harry Potter. Even though my kids have outgrown bedtime stories, I still like to read along with them occasionally. I’ve learned more about young adult fiction from book bloggers, like The Story Siren. The quality of the writing was a pleasant surprise. Fabulous authors, such as Laurie Halse Anderson, inspired me to try my hand at this genre.

Like any big production, there is a stage crew in the wings. My friend Marika Josephson (pictured at right), an assistant editor of KidSpirit Magazine, offered to be my first reader after my husband. Her experience working with 11-15 year olds was a big help as was her keen editorial eye. 

Two of my friends in Maine are young adult authors who encouraged me. Charlotte Agell (pictured at left) was a reader for “as u like it.” I was a reader of her latest novel, Shift. On dog walks Maria Padian and I discuss our works in progress. Her teenaged daughter was interested in my story and had experience at reading manuscripts critically.  Maria’s daughter and my daughter are fans of Shakespeare.

The manuscript needed several test drives. I purposely tried the story on a neighbor’s daughter who didn’t like Shakespeare. I wanted yet another reader who didn’t know me personally so Adrian (pictured below with me), who was a high school sophomore like the protagonist, was a great addition to my critique team. My young readers were really helpful, honestly critical and enthusiastic.

Writing for young adults is different than writing for older readers. Tweens and teens look for an emotional connection with the characters and demand a fast pace. YA books tend to be a bit shorter, 60K words instead of the 90K words norm for adult fiction. The author should avoid too much descriptive detail that can make the book drag. The story must be easy to follow.

Part of the reason I chose As You Like It was because it is one of the easiest of Shakespeare’s plays to read. It is written more in prose than in verse, and the main characters are teenagers in love. A central theme is the fickleness of reputation, one that resonates with teens today too. Shakespeare’s protagonist, Rosalind, kicks back when treated unfairly. She pulls the strings of love like a puppeteer. As You Like It was the first Shakespeare play I read for fun; I was 14 and taking acting at camp.

My aim is to make Shakespeare fun and understandable to anyone. A Bowdoin College professor of Renaissance Literature, Aaron Kitch (pictured at right) checked my Shakespeare and loved how it worked in the story.  My cousin Gabrielle Savoldelli checked the acting scenes and showed me teenaged hangouts in Manhattan, where she lives and teaches school.

Blog buddies helped too: Mama Shujaa (pictured at left) filled in Kenyan expat details, and Cynthia@Oasis Writing Link and her family proofed my Spanish. My book is fiction, but I wanted it to ring true.

While my literary agent has “as u like it,” I will get back to work on my next book. Like any mom, I’m used to multi-tasking. Looking back through my blog archives, I can trace the birth of this latest novel.

Some of you may remember that I got struck by a new book idea last December during an ice storm. I tried to ignore it so I could finish another work in progress first, but the new book wouldn’t leave me alone.

Remember that beach walk in February when I pondered the new book idea? By the end of that month, I had turned my full attention to writing “as u like it.” Now, while I wait to hear feedback from my agent, I’ll get back to work on the next book. I try to have several projects going on at once to avoid downtime. Book publishing is a slow industry.

You shouldn’t see a change in my blog since I’ve always posted content suitable for all ages. My kids read my blog. I’ll continue to read and to review both fiction and young adult fiction. But maybe I won’t post another cocktail recipe!

You can click on the “as u like it” label below to follow the blog string. Photo of Aaron by Bowdoin College, of Mama Shujaa by Corey McGriff, of Marika by Wayne Kao, and photo of Adrian and me by Charlotte Agell. All other photos taken by me.

Visit my website for an as u like it jacket blurb.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sea Change

Wolfe's Neck Park, Freeport in September

I've been looking after a loved one who spent two days in the hospital. It's a big relief to be through it. This photo says it all.

Blog Watch:
  • Interested in healing the planet? Read this fine book review @ Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. Sounds like a must read for gardeners.
  • Bee Drunken has become a steward at Jane Austen's house and takes us on an engaging tour. Talk about a literary dream job.
  • Congratulations to Mary Ellen @ Adopting ME - she searched for a year in a tough economy and just found a job!
  • Welcome a brand new blog: She Brews Good Ale, named after a Shakespeare quotation. The blogger is starting a brewery to help fund her PhD in Philosophy. She brews good humor too. Cheers!
  • Feel free to borrow this "blog watch" meme for your blog, just link back to me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Out of Sorts

I feel like the first leaf of autumn to turn amongst the verdant green. I’ve gone back to school. Not for another degree. I’m auditing Bill Watterson’s Shakespeare Comedies and Romances at Bowdoin College. That’s my classroom pictured below. I get there by bike.

Back when I was at college, I had wanted to take a similar course, but it was full. Bill asked, “15 years ago?” Got to love him. More like 20 years. I swallowed my embarrassment and took a seat besides classmates half my age.

I’ve been a fan of Shakespeare since my tweens. I’m self-taught on this subject since leaving school. So was Shakespeare. He dropped out of school at 13.

Shakespeare wrote with a quill pen that had to be dipped in ink every 3-4 letters. He still managed to write 30 something plays and over 150 sonnets. My friend Aaron Kitch, who also teaches Shakespeare at Bowdoin, believes writing by hand affected the work produced. It forced the writer to slow down and to think.

Have you ever felt “out of sorts?” That idiom comes from 17th century printing. The letters were sorted into boxes. Occasionally letters were put back in the wrong box. Other times the printer would run out of letters while setting a page. He’d have to fiddle with the spelling to make it work. Paper was too valuable to discard, so if a proof reader found an error, they’d still keep that page and fix it in the next copy. Even in one edition, the spelling varied.

I compose my novels directly on a computer, my fingers flying across the keyboard at the rate of my thoughts. I write quickly, but I spend as much time revising as composing. Revision involves reading a print out with a red pen in hand and then cutting, pasting and rewriting on the computer. It is like working on a 3D wooden puzzle that has many possible combinations. I am not pining for quill and parchment, although I do value contemplation.

I walk to the pond with my writing on my mind.

Reflection is perception.

The bright colors of fall are like new ideas.

Back at home, the autumn light angles in low and golden.
Everything seems to glow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. His characters are fallibly true to life but still endearing. The small town going nowhere settings are well drawn. The reader gets the view from the covered porch, creaking on a rocking chair under the leaky eaves.

Like Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic is a literary beach book. It reads more like commercial fiction (along the lines of Tom Wolfe) than like literary fiction (his usual genre.) It is quite similar to his Straight Man in mocking academia and men in midlife crises. Both are laugh out loud funny.

That Old Cape Magic adds a new twist: the protagonist, Griffin, is coming to terms with his dying parents. They were bitter, judgmental and intellectually aloof snobs. Griffin has spent his life trying not to be like them, but the more he tries to dig himself out of their rut, the further in he goes. The beach settings work well: Griffin is like a car stuck in the sand. His mother haunts him first by cell phone and then like a ghost. Or is the voice his own?

Russo apparently wrote this novel in the wake of his mother’s death. He balances the gravity of aging, death and marital problems with almost slapstick humor. Weddings and family get-togethers go spectacularly wrong.

Sometimes humor came at the expense of character development. The in-laws were amusing but a bit cartoonish. Griffin’s wife and especially his daughter were too good to be true. I never really understood why Griffin felt so estranged from his wife. Her marital transgression was rather abstract. Griffin’s English professor parents, however, were great characters, full of depth and tragic comedy.

Griffin is a screen writer who narrates in the style of his genre. This was fun and fresh except when reverting to Hollywood clichés. There were even screen directions. At one point a character casts herself as Susan Sarandon. It’s a novel begging to be a movie and yet not a lot happens. The narrative structure of two weddings was cinematically familiar and predictable.

Janet Maslin of the NYT was scathing in her review: “That Old Cape Magic is the only Richard Russo novel that has its own theme song. It’s also the only Russo book that needs one. And Mr. Russo supplies enough props, picture postcards and pratfalls to underscore the fragility of his latest venture.” Maslin went on to call the novel “entertaining but facile.” Ouch.

I still highly recommend That Old Cape Magic, especially if you’re looking for something light and entertaining but still substantial and well-written. Perfect for Labor Day Weekend. Can you believe that it's already September?

I felt like a character in a Russo novel myself. I was looking forward to finishing That Old Cape Magic after having brunch with some English professor friends. I settled into the hammock only to have it collapse underneath me. Once my teenaged son managed to stop laughing, he asked, “How much did you eat at the brunch?” I did say to a friend that I needed a lit firecracker to get me out of the hammock and back to work!

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@Barrie Summy

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