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Art as Solace, Art as Inspiration

I may have talked about this before, and so I apologize if I am repeating myself. I still believe that art saved my writing life. The first year after the 2010 police raid on my home was a tumultuous time and I spent the year corralling the family and weathering the media storm. About a month after my husband had been dismissed from his job, a good friend approached me and asked how my writing was going. I confided to her that I couldn’t write anymore. She talked with me for a while and gave me instructions. I had to watch Julie & Julia, based on the real life story of writer Julie Powell who cooked a recipe out of Julia Child’s famous cookbook every day for a year; and I was to check out the work of a famous local artist, Pamela Willis, who was doing a public “artaday” project – painting a canvas every day and posting it on social media, to hold herself publicly accountable.

I loved the movie and marveled at Pamela’s perseverance. My friend gave me a hard nudge – and on June 23, 2011, I started my own #artaday project: first drawings, and then photography. I followed my friend’s advice: Do something every day and post it publically so your friends across the country can hold you accountable: the one addition to my public posts was that I had to title or caption my work. I told my family I was going to do this for a week. On June 30, I told them, “one more week.” Those weeks turned into months and years, and eventually, my words returned. First, the poems came back. And then, finally the prose returned. I’m proud to say I’ve been going strong on my #artaday project for almost eight years now. And in that time, I have published two poetry chapbooks, and now my debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues. The photography inspires me. I want to create snapshots with my words the way I do with a camera.

I am a voracious reader and an avid moviegoer and this has helped me be part of the creative arts community – celebrating others’ hard work; finding inspiration from the artists’ dedication. I read memoir and history, biography as well as poetry and fiction. I watch as many films as I can each year, and I’m often surprised by what triggers a memory for me, what triggers a bit of inspiration. I’m so grateful for the art that I’ve held in my hands or seen on screen and on stage. Mostly, I’m grateful for the mostly sunny days on the west coast so I can practice my photography and continue to make my own art.

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