When I heard about this book, I knew I’d buy it. There are books like that. Since I’m an Impressionism geek and feminist, when I heard that Paula Butterfield had written a novel about Berthe Morisot, one of the few women on the forefront of the Impressionist movement, I was thrilled.
Then I learned that my Victorine Meurent, the main character of my novel, makes an appearance in LaLuministe, and I squealed. (A fun thing is that Morisot shows up in my book briefly as well.)
If someone had asked me what I’d like a novel written about, I’d have said this. And I wasn’t disappointed.
But before I discuss the content, let’s look at the cover. You’ve got this amazing painting, At the Ball, by Morisot, which depicts a woman with a fan. Here, though, the painting is partially, tantalizingly, obscured. If you continue your gaze downward, you’ll be rewarded by a bit of what we assume is an easel, complete with a lovely, paint-spattered brush at the bottom. That brush! I want to hold it.
As one who has carefully studied mid-19th century Parisian art history and its chief players, I greatly admired and enjoyed the story, once I allowed my gaze to stray beyond that fabulous cover. In fact, Butterfield assumes the mantle of our “luministe” as she enlightens us about what it was like to be a painter during a time when respectable women did not paint beyond pretty little scenes to make them seem accomplished to suitable husbands.
Though artist Berthe Morisot sustains a lifelong longing for the unobtainable Edouard Manet, she manages to break free from both society and familial expectations enough to become a painter of note herself in the newly bourgeoning Impressionist movement. In the end, she ultimately finds herself at “repose,” as one of Manet’s paintings of her is titled.
This book is moving, well researched, and told with painstaking detail. It was a delight to read.
In Victorine, my historical novel coming out in the next few months, I write about the black choker Edouard Manet paints Victorine wearing. I imagine it as his bootlace, called into service on the spot.
Later, I give Victorine adoring fans who purchase and sport chokers with her as Olympia in lockets. It hardly offsets the cruelty she experiences in the streets after the “scandalous” nude painting was exhibited.
But Victorine is not the only one of Manet’s models to wear chokers. While I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand someone psychoanalyzing the painter and his predilection for encircling his model’s necks, I prefer to chalk it up to his respect and regard for fashion. Few paint fabric and fashion of the day the way he did.
When I stumbled upon this collage on Instagram, I knew I had to share it with you. Thanks, guzelonlu, for this lineup.
Four of the images pictured are Victorine. Can you tell which?
Bonus points if you can tell me the titles of those paintings. First one to comment gets a shoutout from me on Twitter.
Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years, edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom, is the catalogue for the eponymous exhibit of Édouard Manet’s later works. Filled with lush color representations of the paintings and ephemera on display, the expansive book also delights with authoritative, informative essays for those who might not be as familiar with Manet’s life and painting, or for those eager to learn current theories about the painter.
Later in life Manet gravitated toward unabashedly painting
fashion, flowers, and fruit. Unlike his political and hierarchical-upsetting
earlier works, he seemed pleased to focus on painting what simply appealed to his
eyes during his later years when he was unwell and had limited mobility.
Two notable works in the collection are Jeanne (Spring) and Autumn (Méry Laurent), the only two of a planned
set of four to represent the seasons that Manet completed.
TheConservatory, Plum Brandy, Waitress Serving
Beer, and the Café–Concert are some of the other paintings depicting
modern life and fashion that preoccupied Manet in the second half of his career.
No one paints a good mug of beer like Manet. It’s as if he’s anticipating
drinking it as he creates it. Equally, no one uses color quite in the same way,
either. If you don’t know his paintings by the hands, you’ll know them by the
way he places colors adjacent to one another. He evidences his joy in flowers
by the care he takes in drawing them. His palette makes flowers look even more beautiful
than they do in real life. It’s the work of someone who knows he’s dying and
wants to gather to himself all of the beauty and color he will have to leave
The editors of the book thank Juliet Wilson-Bureau, and with
good reason: her extensive Manet scholarship is deeply felt in the exhibit. Essay
authors and contributors to the collection include Carol Armstrong, Helen
Burnham, Leah Lehmbeck, Devi Ormond, Douglas MacLennan, Nathan Daly, Catherine
Schmidt Patterson, Bridget Alsdorf, Jamie Kwan, and Samuel Rodary. They write
on topics as varied as Manet and the Salon to the materials he used, a fascinatingly
deep dive. His “little nothings” are the subject of Armstrong’s essay, lending
weight to something Manet himself pretended to dismiss.
The essays are engaging and necessary reading for the
exhibit goer (preferably devoured before attending the show and again after), and
perhaps even more necessary for those who cannot attend. For Manet aficionados,
this book will both whet your appetite to see the paintings and to study him
more in-depth than ever before. What the authors spark is a hunger for examining
the paintings for oneself.
This volume will satisfy the curiosity of the most avid fan. It delves into the provenance of every painting. It depicts his “scribbles” on envelopes and his attempts at painting tambourine skins. It reprints correspondence to and from Manet about his paintings. As a souvenir, an exhibit guidebook, and a textbook, Manet and Modern Beauty is one for the art lover’s library.
An important note for would-be viewers: a few of the paintings are not going to be shown at both the Art Institute in Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A., (the two museums which will host the show), so consult the book to know if your favorite will be at the museum where you will attend the show.
Victorine. I spent months researching about her, writing about her. Dreaming of her.
She was Edouard Manet’s favorite model. She was her own favorite model, too, when she went to art school and became a painter! Needless to say, this novel is historical fiction, in case that’s your jam. (I adore it!)
The collage above shows paintings of her not only by Manet, but also by Alfred Stevens.
It seems I’ve shared the news everywhere but over here. Guess what? She’s on her way!Late this year or early next, I will my book about her in my hands. I can’t wait!
She will be published by Fleur-de-Lis Press, and I couldn’t be happier!
Did I mention this is my first novel? Surely you can imagine how much happy dancing has been happening in our household! I even wrote an essay about it. More on that later!
In the weeks and months to come I’ll be sharing more of the Victorine story: what drew me to her, my discoveries along the way, and more about the paintings she sat for. More of her history.
If you want to know more, please follow me on the social medias: Twitter (@dremadrudge), Facebook (Drema Sizemore Drudge), and Instagram (Drema Drudge).
Hubby and I are launching a podcast, Writing All the Things, in June 2019, and I daresay Victorine news will spill over to it as well. You can learn more about it at: writingallthethings.com. Or join our Facebook Writing All the Things Podcast Group.
What would you like me to share with you about Victorine? I’m open.
I’m so happy to announce the release of Elementary Ways of Managing Your Pain by a writing client of mine, massage therapist Nancy Snavely.
First of all, let me say what an honor it was to work with this dream client. Nancy came to me with an outline and a timeline, too. She knew exactly when she wanted to finish this book and what she wanted it to say. Guess what? She put a copy of the printed book in my hands today, right on schedule. Y’all, she’s an inspiration. She kicks @ss!
One morning when we met up at a café to discuss her book, she looked at me and said, “You’re in pain, aren’t you?” I hadn’t flinched or anything that I was aware of, but I certainly was hurting. She had me position a pillow in a spot on my back that immediately made me feel better. Here I was supposed to be helping her, and she was helping me. In case you can’t tell, I think she’s amazing.
If you’ve ever suffered pain (who hasn’t?) or know someone who has, you’ll want to read her book. Nancy’s book gives tips and tricks for you to try on your own, since she’s only got two hands and limited client slots. Nancy has numerous certifications, countless testimonials from clients, and keen powers of observation; her healing hands have provided relief to many. I, for one, am thankful she took the time to write this so others can learn from her. I know I did.
The book is also (whether intentionally or not) part memoir. Nancy opens up and shares how she came to the career path she chose. She vulnerably tells difficult parts of her story, which forms trust between her and the reader. Let me say, I had to buck up and tell myself not to cry while editing parts of her story. (And, since I’m not made of stone, I might not have been entirely successful at not crying.) But if anyone is a survivor, Nancy is. If anyone is stronger because of what she’s been through, it’s Nancy. I admire her greatly.
I may have been her editor, but she did more than her fair share of teaching me. Her book reminded me of the importance of things like simply drinking water. Of doing movement you love. As her title says — elementary things.
But it’s also full of innovative, cutting-edge methods. Nancy knows what the trends are; she doesn’t permit herself to get rusty. The book will likely mention things you’ve never heard of, such as cupping and EFT.
Her book’s available on Amazon, so go get it! And if (when!) you do, comment below and let me know, won’t you?
It seems like my husband, Barry, just started attending Spalding MFA’s Creative Writing Program, but this July, he graduated in Kyoto, Japan. That means there are two — yes, two — Spalding grads in the house!
What an honor and privilege to be there to cheer on all of his hard work, hear him do his graduation reading, see him receive his well-earned hood. Barry, I’m so proud of you. Much love!
A highlight of every Spalding trip is spending time with writing friends, old ones and new. (Please, no comments about my hair. Let’s all agree that it does not travel well and leave it at that.)
I’m passionate about architecture, and Japan’s was refreshingly different from that of most countries we’ve visited. We were staying about ten minutes from Toji Temple, so we took an early stroll one morning to view both the temple and its extensive grounds.
The group took a day trip to Hiroshima. It was, as you can imagine, a sobering experience. We heard a survivor talk and we visited the various monuments and museum.
There were more casual gatherings, like the night a group of us went out to karaoke. We gathered in a room, maybe a dozen of us, at a long table. Passing down drinks and mics, we ended up singing most of the songs together. Lady Gaga songs were a favorite, as well as songs by the Beatles. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the evening, but it was so much fun!
Here are miscellaneous shots of our hotel. I spent time writing in the lounge pictured. The hotel had kimonos and Samurai outfits for us to try on, so of course we did.
If I’m not mistaken, I’m the student/alum who has been on the most trips with Spalding. I was on the program’s second trip abroad, and have been on every trip since as a student or an alum. While Barry and I are welcome to go on any future trips we want, it will likely be a few years before we go again. (Which isn’t as sad as it sounds, because there are plenty of places in the U.S. we want to visit.)
I’ll close with random photos from the trip and try not to cry when I imagine not getting together with our Spalding family abroad soon. I’m sure we will go to homecoming in Louisville, though, most years. At Spalding, you’re always family.
As far as I know, there is no idea store. At least not as such.
Some freelance writers find that their biggest obstacle is coming up with ideas. My mother has an inquisitive mind. She’s curious about everything, and she passed that gene onto me, I guess. I come up with too many ideas some days. (Not all of them are good, but still.)
Because of my nature, when I go for a mammogram and someone gives me a rose, I thank them first and then ask why I’ve been given such a sweet gift.
From that recent question came an article I wrote that is just out over at Radiology Today. While I don’t always share everything I write so as not to overwhelm, here’s the story, if you’d like to take a look.
Writing this was engrossing, involving discussions with caring health professionals and a patient or two. And the editor was a dream to work with.
Ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from annoyances, from curiosity, from passions, from wondering, from lack of knowledge, from observation…there are endless sources of questions/ideas.
Pretend you’re a two-year-old and keep asking, “Why?” If you do, you’re halfway there. Of course ideas have to be refined and angled. That’s a whole course in itself!
Oh, and what did I mean by there isn’t an idea store “as such?” If you read publications and websites and identify a gap, well, that’s your signal to ask if they would like to have that gap filled. It’s called sending a pitch or a query. What they typically publish tells you more than anything what they’d like to see more of, or what they need that they don’t yet know they need. Sometimes you’ll get an enthusiastic response. Sometime you’ll hear nothing. Keep pitching.
Sure, there’s a world more to be said about this topic, but this will get you started. Happy idea hunting. Don’t forget to bring along paper and pen, or your phone if you prefer to record ideas.
Writers, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you? Readers, do you have a list of topics you wish writers would write about?
Yesterday I ordered my new business cards! The special offer was for 500 cards, and right now I can’t imagine ever handing out so many, but hey, you never know. Lately I’ve had people asking me about my services, and while my website is handy, it’s nice to have a piece of actual paper with my contact information on it to hand out.
As I scrolled through the color choices and debated fonts, it occurred to me how vision clarifying it was to fit my writing services on one card. Okay, so they didn’t all fit, but the important ones did.
I found myself pondering how to explain why what I do is so important to both me and to my clients on a tiny, 3.5 by 2 inches card! What I came up with had me teary-eyed. That’s when I realized that I’m part writing coach, part freelance writer, part novelist, and all parts cheerleader. Please don’t criticize my math here. I’m making a point. 🙂
While there’s nothing like putting your own hands to the keyboard and creating, the next best thing to me is helping someone else do the same. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve taught classes and workshops on writing. I’ve sat side-by-side with clients and talked through their work. And I love it all. Writing out this card reminded me of how much I enjoy waving pompoms! Isn’t that what we all need, someone to believe in us, someone to hold our hands when we’re scared to write, someone to tell us when we’ve left the path and help us nonjudgmentally back on?
So here’s what I came up with for my business card:
(Forgive the blurry image, but I had to take a screenshot. The real cards won’t be in for a couple of weeks yet. I’ll add a new photo then.)
I wrote on the card, “Everyone has a story. I’ll help you tell yours.” And at the bottom of the card I added, “Because stories live on.”
This is not where I go off on one of my frequent tangents on writing a legacy. It is where I acknowledge that humans are unique creatures every one, to be redundant for emphasis. We all have a story, and there’s nothing better than helping someone tell theirs.
Fiction and nonfiction are included in storytelling. The best truth comes from fiction, but nonfiction can wring your emotions like little else. (As a fiction writer, I’m wanting to qualify like crazy here. Both forms can do everything. It depends on your goal.) When it comes to my clients, I have both kinds, and I see similar reactions when they finally say what it is they wanted to say, fiction or no. There’s a release, a relief. There’s pride and hope for publication, often. And often there’s another idea following closely behind.
This lesson I learned from creating a business card could apply to most everything. If you’ve lost your way, try putting what gives you the most joy on a business card as a miniature mission statement. Find someone who will relentlessly cheer you on toward your goal. (For writing, that would be me. My husband and I also provide a “writer’s nag” service to remind you of your goals and to ask if you’ve achieved them for those of you who might find that helpful…contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to writingallthethings.com/nag. )
And if you’ve got a burning story idea, a tiny spark, or you just want to write your memoir for your family, let’s chat. Email me: email@example.com.
After nearly a year of plotting, planning, and tweaking, Barry and I are happy to announce the launch of our website, Writing All the Things!
You can explore our (evolving) website at writingallthethings.com. There you’ll find a slowly unfurling study on writing and reading literary fiction, a bit about us and the writing services we provide, and more content to come.
Our aim is to make reading and writing literary fiction less mysterious and reveal how enjoyable it can be. We want literary fiction to be more accessible to those who are intimidated by it, and more fun for those who already love it. While there’s certainly a writing focus to our study and analysis, there’s definitely a reading component as well.
We have other fun side projects for the website planned, too.
Please follow our blog and us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook (see our website for links). And share with your friends and writing pals!
Let us know (over there, or here) what topics you’d like us to take on, what aspects of literary fiction you’d most like us to delve into.
Let’s start Writing All the Things! (www.writingallthethings.com)
Someone PLEASE tell me to get back to writing. Our house will never be the same! Out have gone books and more books, clothing by the bagful, and oh so much more.
I even tackled the dreaded long, narrow closet in my writing room. Again. Every couple of years I attempt to make it behave but it ends up raspberrying at me. Not this time! Since I’ve been organizing the whole house, I decided to give that closet another whirl. This time I saw the solution in my mind’s eye: crisp, white bankers boxes.
When we moved to Nashville oh so long ago I bought carloads of bankers boxes. They’re perfect for moving all of your stuff and things. They’re uniform and they have separate lids for easy access. The other day I realized if I was ever going to tame our paper monster I needed to find some, stat.
Furthermore, I needed to categorize the papers better AND be willing to release more of them from my life if I was to ever be victorious.
So early yesterday morning I sat in my writing room and began assembling bankers boxes. I pulled every ugly cardboard box out of the closet, every crate, and started sorting.
Mind you, I’d been through these papers a few times. This time I decided to use the “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t have this?” advice I’d read recently.
I thought I would get rid of every printed draft of the novels I’ve written. I have clean e-copies of them, so I figured I didn’t need them. I unexpectedly decided I needed to keep those marked up manuscripts, so I did. It felt right.
Going through my old journals I realized what a different person I am today and how I am also the same. More on that another time.
Formerly treasured school essays complete with comments, writing with lovely comments from mentors, got pitched.
Some of the purge was practical: most of the comments on my schoolwork were made on stories that have either already been published or have been changed so much that the suggestions no longer apply.
A few of the papers I wanted to keep, but I let them go when I realized this: I was holding too tightly to the good regard, the confidence given to me by my mentors. I’m a bona fide writer now, hell, I’m a teacher of writing. Holding onto those comments for as long as I did helped me see that others believed in me when I didn’t. I will forever be grateful for that. I have been privileged to work with some fantastic mentors who have undeniably helped shape my work. But I can’t see myself as the writer I AM until I let go of that one-down position. And it’s time.
That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t flinch when I tossed all of those blue essay books, those stacks of marked papers into the trash bag. Doesn’t mean I didn’t ask myself if I was being hasty. Doesn’t mean I didn’t grit my teeth as I hurried the bag out to the trash can.
Ironically, the dude driving the recycle truck knocked the wheels right off our trash can this week. I’m not sure how, but I see a connection.
By the way, the closet looks just as I hoped it would. I think I’ve done it this time. Forgot to take a pic, though. Sorry.
In the same vein (and possibly this is redundant rather than reinforcing), I sorted through our writing instruction (or craft, for the uninitiated,) books. Those have always been the hardest for me to let go of, but I discovered that I was ready to release many of those now as well. Some were outdated. Some were ponderous and tedious. Some were written by Dead White Guys FOR Dead White Guys. Some were yellowed, and I really don’t enjoy reading yellowed books.
But again the biggest revelation in reviewing our craft book collection was that I thought some of the content was either too commercial or too simplistic, that I knew some of it was just plain bad advice. I no longer need “1+1=writing” books. I took a box of over 20 (!!) craft books to the Goodwill Bin. (I wouldn’t throw those away, of course).
And for those of you who know I’m married to a writer, of course I asked him if he wanted them before I hauled them off.
Never fear: we still have three well-stocked shelves of writing books. I know I still have things to learn. The difference is I also know what I don’t need to learn.
I’ve also tackled renovating the rusty locker I picked up during Spring Clean Up. This is now residing in my writing room with cute baskets in it to hold my blank journals and writing supplies. As I told a young woman recently, “I’m not afraid of color.” Obvious, isn’t it? I heart this fresh color.
While I’m blissfully happy to be wrangling the house into order, I’m ready to return to writing beyond freelancing. Fiction keeps calling, and I’m about to, I need to, answer.