By Cathy Hansen
-About The Book-
Coated with a life of lies and deceit, Burtrum Lee Conner is sick to her stomach. Dozens of times throughout her life the feeling of not being who she is has tormented her. But she kept it to herself, believing that maybe it’s just a chemical imbalance of some kind considering she is one of the first artificially-inseminated babies of the nineteen sixties. Now, there’s more though, something much deeper, much more maniacal than she could have ever imagined. She’s not the first test tube baby at all, but the first….
Burtrum Lee Conner, born into a world of scientific mystery, discovers that the life she’s been leading for the past forty years, is the wrong one. Her parent’s Jed and Jane Conner, stealing her as an infant, brought Lee up as their own. Even her devoted grandmother, Clair Conner, kept this secret close to her chest until they were found out. And now, Lee Conner’s biological mother, Katie Lee, wants her back, but not before the diabolical Dr. Stone has his say.
-About Mary Maurice-
After attending Western Michigan University for two party filled years, I decided to leave academia and explore the real world to learn what life is truly about. For fifteen years I’ve traveled the country working in restaurants, writing and doing readings wherever I was welcome.
While living in Minneapolis during my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Dr. Jonis Agee, who was at the time head of the creative writing department at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul. Her lessons were imprinted in me for all of these years, and have influenced my writing ever since.
My adventures landed me in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oregon, finally leading me tos the Land of Enchantment where I’ve resided since 1994. Living in Santa Fe, and the beauty and isolation that surrounds me, has inspire my creative muse in ways that no other place has. While still working in the hospitality industry, my passion for the craft of writing has never been stronger. And I know with each sentence I write, and every paragraph I compose, my ultimate goal is to find the perfect word.
Keep on bookin!
You can visit Mary at marymaurice.com
-Cathy's Book Review-
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read Burtrum Lee, by Mary Maurice. The book is a tale of identity crisis and mystery, with a bit of greed and conspiracy thrown in for good measure. The twists and turns of this book, as well as shifts between 1960 and 2004 kept me at the edge of my seat and unable to put the book down. It is a fast read and held my interest throughout, as I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, or what the rest of the family secrets were.
Having lived her whole life questioning who she was and feeling that something just wasn’t quite right, Burtrum Lee suddenly finds herself the focus of attention of a peculiar and potentially dangerous stranger, raising many questions about her birth that her parents and grandmother seem unwilling to answer. Frustrated by her family’s secretive behavior, Burtrum enlists her new friend Megan to assist her in finding out all she can about her past. The truth winds up being far more complex than Burtrum Lee ever could have imagined.
-About Cathy Hansen-
Cathy Hansen is a wife, mom, teacher, independent
beauty consultant, and small business owner. She and her husband operate SeedsNBeans, a local nature store, in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Guest Post by Santa Fe author, Michael French
There may be a thousand and one books on how to write a novel, filled with sound observations, but when it comes to creating and developing characters, many emphasize the mechanical over the intuitive. Over decades, here’s what I’ve painstakingly learned about making your characters authentic, original and memorable.
1. Most writers begin the writing process by working on plot. While plot is obviously important, I also like to know everything possible about my main characters, even if I never use many of their details in the novels. Whether you take voluminous notes about them, or talk out loud to them (and they talk back to you), it’s rarely enough. You need to imagine what they would do off the page, i.e., if they had to attend your Uncle George’s July fourth barbecue, or somehow landed in another novel altogether. Make them your best friends or worst enemies. Whether they come from your imagination or real life (or a combination thereof), you should be inside your characters a few hours every day—before you write a single word. Think of method acting. Characters aren’t simply pawns in a plot—they transcend it. They are what you remember long after the plot is often forgotten.
2. Great characters, to enhance their arc, should have a fourth or fifth gear that seems to come out of nowhere. For example, villains can turn into heroes with an act of kindness that we would never have anticipated, yet when we read the novel closely, we realize that the seed of kindness was planted by the writer from the beginning. Similarly, characters we start off admiring suddenly disappoint us when they hurt someone they love. If they don’t realize what they’ve done, figuring out the “why” makes them even more interesting. Well-conceived characters can help with plot troubles, too, if the writer wakes one morning and isn’t sure where his or her story is going (happens to most of us). Instead of robbing a bank, for example, your destitute character decides to give away his last fifty dollars to a stranger. The wife who has been cheated on, instead of taking revenge on her husband, is filled with insights about her father. A deeply-felt, richly-imagined character is your writing buddy, your co-conspirator, and their importance to the final product can’t be overstated.
3. It’s great to surprise a reader with the unexpected, helping give a twist to the plot and the character, but whatever transpires, it must have credibility. Unless she’s a prodigy, a twelve year old girl is not going to solve the murder of her parents that happened ten years earlier. A surgeon who graduated from Harvard is not likely to leave a sponge behind in his patient’s abdomen. If you go for low probability events, or extreme twists, you have to back them up with plausible explanations. The “willing suspension of disbelief” only goes so far. Once a reader becomes skeptical that the writer doesn’t know what he or she is talking about, it’s tough to win them back.
4. Most writers are more comfortable delineating one sex (or gender) over another, which often dictates their main characters and the genre a writer chooses. You can still be a male and write fantasy romances, or a female skilled at describing war scenes, but whatever your strength, play to it. Very few writers do everything well. The best write about what they know, and their characters evoke passion, empathy or curiosity in a reader.
5. Building a character arc should be done over the span of the novel. Just like it’s a writing sin to have an information plot dump in the first chapter of your book, likewise your characters shouldn’t reveal themselves right away. One aspect at a time—brought out by action rather than exposition—keeps the reader engaged.
6. Try to have one of your characters do or say something in the course of the narrative that’s totally original…something that’s never been done in another movie or film. This is not easy to achieve, but if you have an imagination, have some fun with it. You’ll go down a lot of dead ends, but if you’re lucky, you’ll end up on a mountain peak. Remember that the event has to be plausible, but originality is usually memorable. No matter how many crime stories we read, for example, the great ones take our thoughts and emotions to unexplored places. It’s what readers talk about in reviews and blogs.
7. All good writing, whether its plot, theme or characters, involves a high degree of problem solving. You start your novel after doing the prep work described above, yet as the words march across the page, something feels a little off. You can’t put your finger on it. What have you forgotten or overlooked? Where is the spontaneity and energy? The pieces fit beautifully when your first imagined them, but suddenly they’re like reading a foreign language. Take a break. Do something else with your life that week, or work on a different part or aspect of the novel. Ultimately, the biggest problem, when you finally solve it, can becomes your best writing.
My Latest Novels
By Crystal Otto
-ABOUT THE BOOK -
-ABOUT ERIC TRANT-
-CRYSTAL'S BOOK REVIEW-
Eric Trant does with words what Rembrandt did with paints. I have never been to the depths of hell or within the walls of a sulfur mine, and yet I physically experienced with Alberto and Paolo were experiencing because of Trant’s imagery and mastery of words. My heart rate quickened and I felt anxious. As an example, how can readers read this passage without being moved as if experiencing it themselves?
He held his breath and fought the pulsing in his temples as the climb
became something external to him, a thing imagined in the pitch and his faraway
palms, his faraway feet and the melting of his flesh
in the belching, stagnant atmosphere.
Alberto and Paolo’s father was a man I instantly disliked. Within the first few pages, I felt the hair the back of my neck prickle every time he was mentioned. Each character plays an integral part in the plot of this thriller and each was depicted expertly by Trant.
Risen is a quick read and is well-paced. I was drawn in from cover to cover and couldn’t wait to turn each page to find out what would happen next. Definitely a book I would recommend (whether the reader is generally drawn to historical supernatural fiction or not). I have read previous works by this author and this book did not disappoint. I look forward to future books by this author.
-ABOUT CRYSTAL OTTO-
-FOLLOW THE REST OF THE BOOK TOUR-
REVIEW OF THE DIGITAL RABBIT HOLE
The Digital Rabbit Hole by Larry Kilham discusses the digital technological world and our attraction to everything about it, especially the smartphone. He talks about how it is in our human nature to incline towards convenience and ease for instant gratification, but at what cost? He discusses ways to inspire creativity and how to recapture the days prior to the digital age.
I am part of a generation who grew up watching the digital age come about; I have witnessed some of the pros and cons of living in a digital society which the author addresses in his book. Some of the cons of digital technology he lists in the book are the Millennials performing below average in key employment skills, the rise of narcissistic attitudes, and social awkwardness.
As an instructor, I have witnessed the younger generation having issues holding a conversation, they seem to have shorter attention spans and difficulty retaining new information. I do not know if the root cause of this is technology, but it may play a role in the issues mentioned. I mention this because in the same chart that shows U.S. ranking low in literacy and high in smartphone use, it also shows Australia and Sweden ranking high in literacy and high in smartphone usage. Is it something else in the U.S. that is failing when it comes to the education of younger generations?
The book is an interesting read and will stimulate many debates and lively conversations concerning the use of technology in our everyday lives. For the most part, I believe the digital world isn’t going away anytime soon. We need more books like this to get us thinking about how to find solutions to new problems that have risen with the advancement in digital technology.
ABOUT THE DIGITAL RABBIT HOLE
Will digital media sweep us into a new era of prosperity?
What new advances in entertainment, culture, education, and knowledge can we expect?
Will we get stuck in Cyberland only to be saved by digital detox?
The Digital Rabbit Hole reveals that we are becoming captive in the digital universe. The portals are smartphones and the world is the Internet. We immerse ourselves in social media; we learn through packaged feel-good information; and we will leave the hard work to robots and AI. The book details digital media and discusses smartphone addiction problems. It proposes solutions to stimulate creativity and education and to recapture our humanity.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Tangalene Dudt served in the Army for eight years and now works as a contractor for the US government.
She lives in beautiful Arizona with her wonderful husband and loves to read, garden, hike, and run ultra-marathons.
Each year Tange resolves to read 100 books.
I feel that death has become a taboo topic in the U.S and we tend to not talk about it enough nowadays. We need more books like this one. She is definitely a role model of strength and courage and I hope I can be just as strong when faced with these situations in life.
ABOUT SHIRLEY MELIS
Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.
A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in Galisteo, New Mexico.
By Tangalene Dudt
Wave Rider describes Rebecca Fitton’s healing journey through a combination of poetry and memoir. She was sexually abused at a very young age and then abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother which led to a difficult personal life as an adult. She decided to take charge of her life in order to become the person she wanted to be. Her poetry is part of that healing process.
Fitton's poetry felt universal to me. One poem that had me laughing, because it rang so true, was ‘Electronic Self.’ It's about trying to connect with another person when electronics are getting in the way of that simple human connection. I can relate to this. Even for myself, it's a way to create a barrier and not let anyone get to know the real me.
As others who retire know, retirement is a busy time. She served on five non-profit boards bringing her business acumen to each. She and her husband Richard built a new home on his farm, and then he died suddenly. Recovery from his shocking death took time. Finally she realized that the time had come to remake herself. As the lyrics of the song go, “I’d built a life wrapped so tight it was strangling me.” Freedom was a spirit call from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Rebecca arrived in Santa Fe in 2008 and fell in love with the blue skies, clean mountain air, a vibrant community and the arts. Her first poem was written under a juniper tree.
by Mari Angulo
Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas — and Your Writing Career — to Life
Author: Nina Amir
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (October 18, 2016)
Paperback: 224 pages
To become a more creative, confident, and productive writer, you need to focus your attention, visualize your desires, set clearly defined goals, and take action toward your dreams. Let Creative Visualization for Writers be your guide on this journey of self-discovery. You’ll learn how to:
About the Author
Nina Amir started as a journalist. She has a BA in magazine journalism with a concentration in psychology. After working as an editor and writer for a variety of regional magazines, a national corporation in New York City, and a small consulting firm, she started my own freelance writing and design business.
Working on other writers’ manuscripts sparked her desire to write a book of on topics she felt passionate about: personal development and practical spirituality. More than publishing a book, she wanted to build a business around those books.
Setting out to learn all she could about the publishing industry she got involved with the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and started the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (now known as National Nonfiction Writing Month). In April 2012, her first book How to Blog a Book was published, became an Amazon bestseller almost immediately, and has remained one ever since. The Author Training Manual was published by Writer’s Digest Books just two years later and was a bestseller before any books passed through the register on Amazon. In addition she’s self-published several more ebooks, all of which have made it onto the Amazon Top 100 right away. In fact, she’s had as many as four books on one Amazon Top 100 list at the same time!
Thoughts on the Book
Amir's new book is hard to categorize. It's an activity book, it's inspiring to read, yet highly informational. She's going deep, bringing in research about left/right brain, and even chromotherapy to support her material. It's a book that asks you to dig deep and know yourself in ways you might not expect. It's a call to action.
I, myself am not an author, and writer is far from a noun I'd use to describe myself. However, I found this book to be a fantastic exercise even for "non-writers." Interestingly enough, my background is in business and marketing and I found direct correlations to crucial elements of business and strategic planning in "Creative Visualization." Even the sections are organized in a way that flows like a strategic planning process (except it's so fun you barely notice). You can practically write your own author Mission and marketing plan once you're done with the book!
Amir makes it clear at the beginning, that you don't have to read the book from start to finish to get what you want out of it "You may want to focus on the Goals section if you need to set intentions, or spend time with the Creativity section if you want to develop ideas or stimulate your muse. Use the coloring pages when you want to relax or focus. Use the affirmations when you are ready to commit to changing a particular negative thought." I found this to be true. This book is a companion that you can read again and again and build your own adventure each time.
There are six clearly outlined sections in the book. She begins with Self Exploration, she's asking you to dig deep and ask questions about what you know about yourself. Where are you now as a writer and person? As Amir explored the concept of "knowing yourself" as essential to being a good writer, I couldn't help but think of Hemingway, who wrote his weight down and kept a log of what he ate on the wall of his bathroom. Talk about really striving to know oneself. In the next section, Vision, you're looking at the future. What's next for you? Can you visualize your book, your success, even your ideal reader? In the Goals section, she addresses intention and goal setting, and she's literally asking you to draw a map to success. In the Creativity section, there are exercises to help develop ideas and stimulate your own creativity. In Focus, there's even a section with coloring pages, but it's not all "fun and games," even in the creativity section you're prompted to brainstorm and plan ideas for things like your author website, a potential talk about your book, and even blogging topics. All things that authors need to know and think about "outside" of their writing. I think the section about focus is extremely important because writers/authors tend to be creative, interested individuals at the core, so it's easy to jump from one thing to the next. Amir is asking you to check yourself and stay accountable to the plans you make and outline a clear path. And finally, there are the Affirmation Pages that lead with a Muhammad Ali quote: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” This is literally a section of affirming prompts where writers (or anyone!) have a chance to build confidence and weed out negativity by writing about themselves, in their craft, in an positive way.
There's so much to be learned and practiced in "Creative Visualization." It's not just about the ideas and the craft itself, it's also about accountability and goal setting. Amir is not only asking the reader to make a plan but also to believe enough in oneself to know that you can do it.
This book will make an excellent gift for so many writers I know.
by Tange Dudt
My Name Is Wonder Synopsis
My Name is Wonder is a tale of adventure that will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wisecracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach.
About The Author
Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at www.SeeingTrue.com, content for people in substance abuse recovery at www.ProgressiveRecovery.org, and other content from his master site, www.RonaldChapman.com. He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ronald can also be found online at:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/seeingtrue/
My Name is Wonder Review
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is an anthropomorphic book which follows a goat named Wonder as he travels through life trying to figure out where his place is in the world. As a young goat, Wonder knew he never truly belonged at the farm and was different from the other animals. He wanted to explore and know more of what the world has to offer. His father finds him a teacher, Oren, to make him strong spiritually to help prepare him for his upcoming adventures. When Wonder finally leaves the farm, a trusty side-kick, a crow named M.C., acts as a guide in order to help him along this journey. All along the way, Wonder meets interesting characters and faces new challenges.
I took away many messages from this book such as to keep your head up and eyes on the ‘Light’ when others try to keep you down or when facing sorrow; it is okay to be different and follow the path laid out for you; and do not live your life as others would have you live it. These are wonderful messages for children and adults alike. I know I would have benefited from this as a child, but reading it as an adult it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time how it is important to live in the moment and show kindness to everyone around you. This would be a great book for parents to read together with their kids to discuss the messages in the book. The children will love the characters and adventures Wonder encounters, but the adults will love the spirituality in this book. I know I will reread this one again and probably learn something new that I didn't catch the first time around. It will be fun to accompany Wonder along the way once more.
About Tang Dudt
By Alicia Guzmán
Instagram is a powerful tool here in Santa Fe and elsewhere. It has and continues to foster an “artist’s community” by bringing like-minded people into each other’s social media lives. In fact, Book Santa Fe found Matilda Gutierrez’s “50 Days of Book Covers” on Instagram while cruising photos taken at Downtown Subscription for a worthy repost. A witty photograph of Matilda’s face covered by Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood piqued Book Santa Fe’s interest, which then led to the discovery of the growing trove of artistic reinterpretations of some of the most iconic book covers from the past century. With a new kind of book art at hand, and facilitated by something so seemingly common as Instagram, the idea for an interview was born. When I got on board shortly thereafter (also aided by the handy Instagram), Matilda had just completed her fiftieth and final cover.
In a quiet corner of Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Fogelson Library, surrounded by books about the history of opera music, Matilda Gutierrez began to tell her story. An aspiring artist and illustrator from Laredo, Texas, a town that borders Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Matilda had just finished her sophomore year at SFUAD. With some time on her hands, Matilda gave herself an assignment for the summer months: create a project that would last until the fall term started. The resulting set of ink, watercolor pencil, and marker illustrations was titled “50 Days of Book Covers.” Joined by Mari and Art of Book Santa Fe, we touched on the project’s origins, the influence of Instagram and the role of social media accountability in keeping Matilda on track until the very end.
Each day, Matilda chose a book cover; some of the books she’d read and others she hadn’t. Mostly, it was the appeal of the cover design and the illustrative impact of each book that influenced her choices. Here, she judged each text by its cover, showing that what beckons readers to books is indeed a visual first impression. Far from copying, Matilda reinterpreted the designs of fifty book covers. Through her own hand and “mind’s eye,” iconic covers from books such as Lolita took on a graphic quality, where strong line work, prismatic color and an embrace of the white of the page, transformed old into new. The role Instagram played was significant, as it became the primary mode for showcasing the project; the title “50 Days of Book Covers” was, at first, a hashtag, one that was up for grabs and perfect for recording the project’s course (her own handle is @matgutz). To post each day’s cover on Instagram was to continue the project, to send it out into the universe, and to introduce an audience to her creations. And to have an audience, more significantly, was like adding a system of accountability that kept Matilda going.
The interview is excerpted below and contains my questions as well as Book Santa Fe’s regarding the inspiration for the project and many other topics, ranging from speaking Spanish, process, medium, discipline, the role of social media and last, but not least, selfies. We seem to have covered it all. Read on!
September 28, 2016
Alicia Guzmán (AG), Arts Writer
Mari Angulo (MA), Book Santa Fe
Art Tucker (AT), Book Santa Fe
Matilda Gutierrez (MG), Artist
AG: First of all tell us about your history and then you can tell us how you arrived at your project.
MG: I’m from Laredo, Texas, which, is a small border town and my family is from Mexico and living there (Laredo) is pretty much like living in Mexico. So all through my elementary, middle and high school I was in art classes and I got lucky because I always had really creative teachers. In high school, my art teacher there really pushed me to keep working and basically she would really push us. Recently I was going through my old sketchbooks from high school and I realized that I had a ton of text-drawing just stuff that I would copy like if I was reading them I would copy the cover and a ton of magazine drawings and sitting there thinking I should’ve studied design or illustration. So it was kind of this epiphany that I really want to be an illustrator and I’m a junior and only have a year left and have spent the past few years as a painter so I was trying to make up for lost time so I was trying to learn from these illustrators that have kind of created these book covers that I was always attracted to so I was trying to pick up a few tools from them.
AT: Where is your family from in Mexico?
MG: My dad is from Durango and my mom is from Chihuahua.
AT: My other question is what do you like to read?
MG: It varies. When I was little whatever I read in English I had to read in Spanish. I had to match what I was reading in English and my mom was always encouraging my sister and I to read out loud in Spanish. I loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I grew up reading Harry Potter in English and then I read it in Spanish.
Art: So did your family speak Spanish at home?
MG: Yes. To this day.
MA: They didn’t want to let it go.
MG: Yeah. I love Spanish.
AG: You’re a painter, right, so this is a project to try out your hand at illustration? The marker and the pen drawings were something new, then?
MG: Well, I’ve always drawn in ballpoint pen. That is what I drew in high school, but I never took it as seriously as my paintings. My paintings were my artwork and my drawings were my doodles, things I did during the day when I had free time.
AG: So then (50 Days of Book Covers) was about taking the drawings and making them into a finished project?
MG: Even with my sketchbooks I would make my (sketches) obsessive and try and get them really perfect and make them look like paintings, I guess, like make them look like finished artworks. But I was playing with those two (approaches).
AG: Well, it’s interesting because you did develop a style in the book project... so it’s surprising for me to hear that the paintings were the “finished product” because your style of illustration looks finished even if it doesn’t cover the page.
MG: In school you’re always taught to fill the whole page. It must be so saturated that you can’t see the white of the page.
AG: But there’s so much white (in the project)! So much negative space. Was that part of the illustration?
MG: Yeah I think with my time here and with my time in studio arts, I’ve become looser in my drawing. I’m not afraid of negative space anymore. I leave my sketchy lines in. I don’t erase mostly. It’s been kind of freeing.
AG: To get past the medium question, you went back to your high school notebooks and saw that you were drawing based on things you saw. Was that the inspiration for the actual book project or did the project just come independently?
MG: So at the same time I was looking at my sketchbooks, this was during the summer. I didn’t have any assignments. I wasn’t in school, but I was listening to this podcast, from “The Jealous Curator” and she was saying that when you leave school it’s important to give yourself assignments and keep yourself busy so I think she pushed me to start a project and see how disciplined I was. I was also getting scared of graduating.
AG: The world of self-motivation (laughter)?
MG: Yeah and finding a purpose for myself.
AG: Well, you proved it. Now you can say that it’s over.
AT: How hard was it? Seems to me it would be pretty hard.
MG: It was pretty hard. There were a few days where I definitely skipped and just caught up later. I think I ended up finishing a week later... toward the end I was running out of book covers and I was in the library a lot looking for something. But I also live with a creative writer so there are books everywhere, so I guess that’s where I got the book idea because at first I was gonna do labels and album covers, board games or DVDs.
AT: Just out of curiosity, typically what time of day did you do these?
MG: If I did anything in the day, it would be the first thing that I do because I have to keep in my lighting and natural lighting is the best lighting and try and finish by a reasonable hour, but there were some days I didn’t, so I would use a projector setup because projector lights are so bright and I’d make them with projector lighting.
AG: Did you read all of the books?
MG: No. To me it was literally judging a book by its cover and what attracted my eye and that’s where I would go.
AG: Did you feel compelled to read the book after you drew the cover?
MG: I did at first. I feel kind of guilty I was afraid someone was gonna call me out on it (laughter).
AG: It was purely design impulse then?
AG: Which I think is interesting because I think a lot of time we’re compelled to read a book based on what it looks like. Buying is so much about looks.
AT: Yes. A cover can change the sales of a book.
AG: This proves the rule right? Why did you start with Haruki Murakami then?
MG: That one I did read (laughter). There are a lot of (examples) in here that I read, but some are ones that were on bookshelves
AG: That leads me to another question about the variety of books because there is an immense variety of books from Norwegian Wood, to The Little Prince to Where the Wild Things Are, so from iconic novels to children's’ books, to artist’s books—I saw the Yoko Ono book in there, too—was that what was available?
MG: I didn’t have a specific pattern or anything. The first ten are my favorite books and then after that I started going into my childhood and then there were days where I would google attractive book covers. At one point I would do a children's book cover and then do something weird the next day. I did Matilda, here, and the next day I did Slaughter House Five (laughter).
AG: That’s great.
AT: What’s the name of this series?
MG: Well, it’s 50 Days of Book Covers. I was looking for a hashtag on Instagram that hadn’t been used.
MG: Yeah. Instagram is pretty great.
AG: How much did Instagram help determine the direction of the project?
MG: So much. I think, at first I was so scared to do this project because if I put it on Instagram then everyone would see it and if I flaked out on it later, then everybody would know I didn’t finish it.
AT: You made a commitment.
AG: Accountability. Social media accountability.
MA: I like that term.
AT: There is that on Instagram. An accountability.
MG: Yeah because then people start expecting it from you and it was my motivator I guess.
AG: I’ve seen some other projects before where people are going to do 365 days of something, like...
AT: Selfies? (Laughter)
AG: I knew one photographer who would type quotes on a typewriter and place them everywhere and take very artful photos. So did you see things like that because I seem to see them in abundance?
MG: Yeah I think that’s everywhere. I think Instagram is becoming an artist community.
AT: I think so. More so than originally. Originally there was an awful lot of selfies. It’s kind of calmed down though. But there are a lot of very good artists on Instagram.
MG: That’s where I find all the artists that I like now—that I’m inspired by, and illustrators and they’re also super motivating.
MA: What was the response that you got?
MG: It was really great, not what I expected at all. I thought “who would be interested in my project
that I’m just doing for myself?” But then a lot of people had a really great reaction and everybody could relate to it, books that they’re reading now or books from their childhood.
AG: I think that’s a really great point because when I went through this and the pictures on Instagram I was like, “I read this at this specific point in my life.” And that’s where you can relate back to something. Like Harry Potter defined a very specific point in my junior high years. Or Norwegian Wood I read two summers ago. There is something about relating a place to a book that’s really special. And like Where the Wild Thing Are, everyone could relate to that.
AT: And to me I could associate with the authors, like Kurt Vonnegut. I can reference what I’ve read and that I really appreciate.
MG: On Instagram someone wrote about my Esperanza Rising book, “I love this book. I stole it from my fourth grade teacher’s class” (laughter). It was just really great to hear everyone’s experience.
MA: Yeah you can get everyone’s dirty book secrets. You know what struck me was I wondered if you picked up a couple of covers of the same books and thought, “Hmm which one is better?” Like Lolita, with the skirt and the little school girl outfit. I thought, “she probably looked at multiple covers and had to make a decision sometimes.”
AT: On the same book?
MG: That definitely happened with the Great Gatsby, too, the blue one, Celestial Eyes. That’s the painting that’s on the cover. I drew that one a few years ago, so I decided not to go with that one and tried one from the 1920s (gestures to page). That’s how I decided on that one. But with Lolita, I kept finding so many book covers and they’re all so cool and that Lolita cover I had also drawn in high school, but I had drawn it very perfected and I was very meticulous so I kind of wanted to see how my style had changed from high school so that’s why I drew that one again. But yeah it kept happening where later I would find a different book cover and would rather have drawn that one.
AG: Next 50 book covers! That’s fascinating, too. I think what’s coming out of this is the sense of playfulness in your work. Is that something that you consciously put into your style, something that you developed or something you saw in other people’s work?
MG: I think that’s just something that I’ve developed because my number one critique in all of my painting classes is that all of my work is too pretty and I often get that my work is too illustrative and I think that when I do this work it just comes out.
AG: What do you think about that critique?
MG: I used to hate it. I tried to be edgy and paint in all black... in my other painting projects and now I kind of accept it.
AG: So much of it is the color and so much of it is the line work that lends to being “illustrative.” Do you have illustrators specifically that you look up to?
MG: Yes, I’m blanking on their names. I mean these book covers, those are the illustrators that I was really researching. I also love fashion illustrators.
AT: How much license did you take from the current book cover to what you created? What percentage of it is…?
MG: Not a whole lot because I was really trying to pick up on what they were doing so I was trying to learn from them. I was really trying to learn their thought process. But with color and line work and not filling in the entire page, that’s where I took liberties.
AG: When you see this it doesn’t seem like this a learning process for you. When you come to this (project) as a viewer, it’s like “oh, this isn’t her own way of working through something.” It’s a very different experience as a viewer, I think, than what you’re telling us, which definitely turns around expectations.
MG: That gives me something to think about.
AG: It doesn’t appear as a “process work” is what I mean.
MA: You have a legitimate perspective. I don’t think we saw you as trying to do something, we saw you as…wow, that’s pretty cool.
AT: Not just elaborating from what was already done, this was really (your) take on it. And I can see that. Has this led you to think about this not just as art, but as (career) to create book covers?
MG: Yeah. Definitely. This is what I want to do.
AG: Do you plan on doing something with this (project) in particular...would you consider making it into a reproduced series?
MA: Or a gallery show?
MG: Yeah, I would consider that. I just haven’t thought about that. Notebooks are so... this is just a book, so I never really think about tearing out the pages.
AT: I completely understand what you’re saying, you take a book cover and create it with your own mind’s eye, basically and that’s a good process. And it’s a feeling good process. It’s kind of addictive, actually.
MG: It is addictive. I think on day fifty, I was really happy to be done and the next day I thought “which book cover am I gonna have to do today?” And I just didn’t have to and it was a weird feeling.
AT: And Instagram has that element of addiction, too. “I have done this regularly for this long and oh my god I’m not doing it.” It’s kind of like “what a loss this is; I don’t have anything special to do for it.”
MG: Especially when (Instagram) is there, always.
AG: And then you started doing portraits, right? Was that the new assignment, the selfie portrait?
MG: I didn’t want to lose momentum so I just threw in another project...This is day 2. It’s basically twenty days of selfies. People can tag me in their image, I’ll draw it and then I’ll put it on my Etsy shop and if they like it, they can buy it. So it’s like the 20/20 portraits.
MA: I am super impressed.
AG: Here we were talking about how Instagram was being taken over by selfies and this is one degree further.
MA: It’s about narcissism. People love themselves. And then for her to be like, “I’ll draw your selfie.” People are going to be all over that.
AG: And (your subjects) are probably coming to you wondering which selfie (is the best). “Which selfie should I tag you in?”
MG: Yes. I was thinking yesterday that this is a psychological experiment because the way different people react, it’s really interesting.
AG: How did people react in the selfie project?
MG: I was expecting it to drag on and maybe get like one person a day but I basically got flooded. I had to keep reiterating, it’s only twenty. People were just like “are you sure you want to draw me?” And then they would tag me in like six selfies and ask, “what about this one and this one, and this one, and this one...” (laughter). Some other people were just straightforward, like “this is the best selfie I have,” so you can definitely see people’s levels of self confidence.
AG: “Selfie” confidence…It’s kind of a funny selfie critique.
AG: Do you have any projects after this one?
MG: I thought of the portrait one like five days before I finished the book cover one so I was ready to throw that one out there. I like this project idea so I’ll think I’ll keep going.
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This is a book that stays with you...
A Killer’s Grace follows Kevin Pitcairn, a New Mexican journalist and recovering alcoholic, on a journey to understand the concepts of innocence and grace after receiving a letter from Daniel Davidson, a convicted serial rapist and killer. What starts seemingly as a thriller quickly becomes a treatise on the nature of these topics, challenging the reader’s understandings thereof alongside Pitcairn’s own struggle, while tying in a very nuanced discussion of religion.
I, personally, had some issues with the book—for starters, it is revealed early on in the story that, years ago, in an alcohol and drug-fueled frenzy, Pitcairn killed a man and was never brought to full justice. While the character struggles with it and tries to reconcile that act through his work toward bringing understanding to Davidson, it’s just accepted by his girlfriend and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor as something that happened. In fact, it’s so accepted that his girlfriend takes Pitcairn yelling at a dog as more of a threat of violence than his dark past. Perhaps I’m bringing a personal bias against murderers into my reading of this book, but I can’t shake this overwhelming acceptance of manslaughter as being horribly unrealistic.
The larger issue is more with the overall message of the book. Pitcairn’s eventual thesis is “violence begets violence,” a hard pill to swallow for me because, while I understand and even readily accept it, it still seems a bit dismissive to the actual crimes. Chapman, in his defense, repeatedly tries to reconcile this by saying that, while the cause of the transgression may be other violence, the offender is not without fault; essentially, it’s not a question of innocence, but one of causality. However, this focus on causality disconnects Pitcairn from what actually sent him on this journey of understanding. Although Pitcairn’s eventual article on Davidson references some abuse, the killer himself doesn’t bring any up in his initial letter, instead blaming his mental illness and associated biology that caused him to act in such a way, proven by the fact that he no longer has such gruesome urges after anti-androgen treatments. He wrote to Pitcairn in an effort to spread the word of his disorder, and instead of the article sparking a discussion on the role of mental illness in horrendous crimes, it becomes focused on the thesis of violence begetting violence, with only passing mentions of biology as a source of causality. In that sense, Davidson is done a disservice in favor of Pitcairn’s search for his own absolution.
This is a story that stays with you, and the fact that I was able to write 200 words strictly on my thoughts of how causality is presented in the novel is proof of that. I’d recommend this book, even if it were only to have someone with whom I could discuss it fully.
Elizabeth Seratt is a child of the Deep South, but upon graduating from Ole Miss in 2014, she made an ill-advised move to Santa Fe, where she had no job and no friends. It worked out: she now works as a social media coordinator and occasional freelance writer, and she has enough friends to throw cool theme parties.
She enjoys books, travel, horror movies, green chile, beer, playing outside, taking too many photos, and spending time with her cat. You can follow her adventures on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/elizabethseratt/), or enjoy her snark and love of memes on Twitter (https://twitter.com/elizabethseratt).
Paperback: 240 Pages
Author: Ronald Chapman
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
UPCOMING BLOG TOUR DATES
Thursday, September 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Kwilinski
Cathy Kwilinski reviews Ronald Chapman's A Killer's Grace.
Friday, September 23 @ Renee's Pages
Tange Dudt reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this highly acclaimed novel!
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