People pointing, fingerpainting the world, leaving me the silhouette of my life. And I'm filling in the negative space with positively everything.
~ Edie Brickell

About Me

My Photo
I write fiction for young adults and am represented by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. My debut novel, STONE FIELD, is a re-imaging of Wuthering Heights set during the Civil War. STONE FIELD is slated for publication in Winter 2016 by Roaring Brook Press-Macmillan Publishers.

The Art of 'Becoming'

I'm taking a course called Storytelling for Change, and our first assignment was to create a Life Map based on our chosen theme for the course. I chose a theme which I could use in future presentations about creative endeavors like writing. My theme was a quote by Kurt Vonnegut: "You should practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience BECOMING, to find out what’s inside you, to MAKE YOUR SOUL GROW." Our second assignment was to find an "a-ha!" moment in our life map that we could refine as a brief turning-point story. Here's mine:

"The Art of Becoming"

The writer Kurt Vonnegut encouraged people to practice all kinds of art in order to experience "becoming," to make their "soul grow." I remember the day I first learned to appreciate the value of art. It wasn't a pleasant lesson. When I was thirteen, my family moved from the Midwest to New York, and rented a big farmhouse on the grounds of an art colony belonging to a famous feminist writer and artist. I was scared of the woman. She had long, wild grey hair and heavy dark eyebrows that always made it look like she was scowling at me. But I was fascinated by her big house, full of strange books and colorful pictures.

In my room hung a huge framed abstract painting of a woman. I didn't want that thing on my wall. I had my own picture that would fit in that frame. So I took the original painting out, stuffed it in the closet, and put a poster inside the frame. It was a picture of a kitten hanging onto a tree limb with the words, Hang in there!" written across the bottom. I soon forgot about the painting.

One day, the woman visited the house to check on things and saw my kitty poster in her beautiful frame. Her wild hair grew even wilder. Her face came alive. Her thick dark eyebrows drew together. Her eyes flamed. I thought she might cook me for dinner like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. But after she yelled at me for treating her artwork in such a careless manner and scolded my parents for letting me, she gingerly restored the painting to its frame and stormed from the house without stuffing me in the oven.

At first, I was mortified. But after crying for a while, I lay on my bed and gazed at the painting. She  made that. She cared deeply about it. It meant something to her. I wanted to feel so fierce, so passionate about something, too. I began to pay more attention to the original artwork around the house. I began to make my own. When I was a senior in high school, I took art classes at night at the community college and then entered an Art program.

I continue to find deep satisfaction in creating art. I discovered how it makes one's soul grow. I am thankful for that day the artist yelled at me. It didn't discourage me so much as teach me to "hang in there!" Because that was the moment I started appreciating the value of practicing art. That's the day I began my experience of Becoming.

My daughter, Alex, 4, after completing a painting at the art center, Boston. I developed the film and made a print of this photo at the darkroom of the same art center.


Blog Archive