Just a quick note here to let you know I’ll be at Mumfest this year, representing both Michelle Garren Flye and my alter ego Shelley Gee, who you might know as the writer of charming children’s mysteries. I will have copies of all my books, including my poetry booklet, which is in limited release (meaning you either have to go to The Next Chapter Books & Art or find me to purchase a copy). I’ve cut the prices for Mumfest weekend if you buy directly from me, so it’s a great time to stock up on good books! I hope to meet some of you at Mumfest. I’ll be in the purple tent on Middle Street with my friend Noel of Blissworks. It’s hard to miss! Noel’s artwork is fantastic!
I remember the first time my son brought home Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems from the school library. I loved reading to my kids, but I really never connected with Pigeon. Why he was so popular with my kids, I never really knew. I loved the Frances books, anything by Rosemary Wells, and when they started bringing home little beginning readers like Henry and Mudge, I was in seventh heaven!
But the Pigeon? Every time one of my kids brought one of those home, I just rolled my eyes.
Turns out I missed the point. Pigeon is much deeper and much more shallow at the same time. He’s a philosopher and a spoiled child wrapped into one, which is kind of how I see myself. Maybe I just didn’t like seeing myself on the pages of a children’s book?
How do I know all this about Pigeon? I read an interview with his creator. Check it out here: Mo Willems Interview. (My thanks to my friend Liz for referring me to this article!)
Mo Willems’s admittedly incredible ability to look into my soul and pull a pigeon out of it notwithstanding, he says some very insightful things about the nature of art and creativity and writing. “Books are sculptures” is indeed one of them. What took me most by surprise, though, was the revelation that he’s not just writing to inspire kids. He’s writing to inspire the parents to do and say and live the way they want their kids to do and say and live.
Consider this: “[W}e constantly hear, ‘Our children are the future,’ but we seldom say, ‘Hey we’re the present and it’s incumbent on us to be present.’ So there’s this silliness, but there’s also a, ‘You can do it, too.'”
Thank you, Mo Willems!
I’m 49 years old. I’ve just published my first children’s book (Jessica Entirely by Shelley Gee). I also privately published my first collection of poetry Times and Ties. I’m taking singing lessons and auditioning for plays. I’m inspired by my kids, and my only regret right now is that I’ve never done any of these things before. I didn’t model my life by living my dreams. If anything, they’ve modeled for me by bringing home books for me to read that I wouldn’t normally have read, and introducing me to movies and television and a slew of pets I never would have chosen to bring into my life.
So I’ll presume to add a little to Mr. Willems’s statements. Be inspiring to your children, but don’t be afraid to be inspired by them, too. A family circle is beneficial to all.
Something I wrote:
Jessica smiled in spite of her worries about her friends. They all had friends in town and friends who evacuated and friends who might have lost their homes in the storm. But she had her family right there with her and the idea of helping made her feel much better about things in general. She took a deep breath and followed her family to the kitchen, happier than she ever had been at the prospect of spending an hour or two with them at the table.
I’m a closet philosopher. Seriously, I’ve been accused of thinking too much. The problem is, if I try to read an entire book—or even an entire essay—by a philosopher, I get bored. I find myself thinking about what’s for lunch or what my kids are doing or when I need to go grocery shopping again.
The Internet has solved that for me. When I find myself pondering a philosophical problem, I can look it up on the Internet and find bite-size nuggets of inspiration in philosophical quotes. And since I always like to check my sources, I end up reading at least a paragraph or two from the quoted philosopher. Until I started this up, I had no idea who Bertrand Russell was but now I’ve read several paragraphs from him!
Google this one if you’re likely to fall for internet hoaxes: “…it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.”
That’s how I found out Albert Camus agrees with me that today’s attitudes toward “West Coast elite” writers, actors, and artists is a bad thing. Camus would have been heartbroken by the fall of Hollywood in today’s world. Of course, Camus died in 1960, and I don’t even know if he ever saw a movie, but I found a quote that seems to support this idea of mine. Camus wrote: “Beauty, no doubt, does not make revolutions. But a day will come when revolutions will have need of beauty.”
What a wonderful thought. I pictured men on a bleak battlefield ceasing the fight while they looked for the beauty of what they were fighting for. How many wars might end if we stopped to think about what we fought for? I checked the source of the quote and found a longer section of Camus’s essay “The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt.” In this section, Camus expounds on the necessity of art to make sense of history. Look, for instance, at this sentence:
“Every great reformer tries to create in history what Shakespeare, Cervantes, Moliere, and Tolstoy knew how to create: a world always ready to satisfy the hunger for freedom and dignity which every man carries in his heart.”
I dare to believe that Camus wrote, in 1951, how I’ve been feeling about the way many artists are treated today when they dare to make their feelings about the larger world known. Stephen King, Barbra Streisand, Colin Kaepernick (yes, sports can be art), J.K. Rowling—even Rob Thomas—all of these artists and many more have been slammed on Twitter and in conservative media for daring to make political opinions known in today’s highly divisive atmosphere.
To the artists I say, you have vision and you must keep seeing. Keep seeing and keep speaking out because though you are outnumbered by those who can’t see, your light shines brighter than theirs. And that’s your job.
In case you were wondering, Camus would have agreed with me about this. In that same essay, he said something which I can only take as a message to me and to all like me who see the world as oppressive and who want to make it freer and more beautiful and welcoming to all:
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
And that is how I will seek to live my life.
By Michelle Garren Flye
I wish I could sing.
Fill the room
Shout it out—
I wish I could paint.
Shades of beauty.
Fill the walls
Slash it on—
I wish I could write.
Fill the page
Jot it down—
But I can only scream.
Filling the world
It was, I won’t lie, an exhausting weekend here. Mumfest happened in a big way! I had a chance to connect with a lot of readers and potential readers, a few aspiring writers, old and new friends. Fantastic!
I was lucky enough to be able to partner with a very talented artist, Noel McKelvey of Blissworks. (You can see some more of her lovely creations on her Facebook page.) Her artwork grabbed a lot of attention, and I’m thrilled to say she sold several of her lovely paintings! Yay, Noel! Added bonus, some of the folks who stopped to admire her art also took a moment to check out my books. So good for me, too, right? I sold a few, talked to lots of neat people and basically regained a little of my ambition, which can easily be lost when you sit in your office day after day writing words and wondering if anyone will ever read them.
Added added bonus, theater friends also stopped by. I reconnected with several cast and members of Anne of Green Gables and A Christmas Carol. Which was timely since Dickens Magic, which is set in Rivertowne Players’ Masonic Theatre, comes out in just over two weeks!! Though I swear I never base any of my books on actual events in my life, I will say that those two plays gave me the experience I needed to write a story from the point-of-view of an actor/director. Sort of intensive research, I suppose!
So, overall, a great experience. I hope “The Artist and the Author” will make another appearance at another location one day. Noel and I made a good team. Plus, we now have the banner and the tent!
In other news, my virtual tour for Becoming Magic continues today. Check out my interview on Bookaholic where I discuss the difficulty of writing a romance with a #metoo theme—and why I wanted to do it in the first place.
Remember your eighth grade dance? We called them sock hops. I say eighth grade because it was late enough in the game so you didn’t go to dances just to run around and play with your friends, but early enough (for most of us) so you weren’t real confident about your appeal to the opposite sex. What was the one thought that haunted you?
What if no one asks me to dance?
Well, here I am a forty-something struggling writer with thirteen novels under my belt and I find myself confronted by the same exact thought. It’s not a sock hop this time, though, and it’s not my sex appeal that worries me. But still…
What if no one asks me to dance?
You see I’m starting an email list intended to promote my books, my poetry, my blog—my art. But what if no one signs up for it? What if my effort is rejected and I become a pretty little wallflower that no one wants to dance with?
And yet, that’s the chance all artists take when they put themselves and their work out there. You might be rejected. You probably will be, actually. If you believe enough, you persevere.
So, to sweeten the deal a bit and make it less likely that I’m left standing in the corner while everyone dances around me, I’m adding a little weight to the scales. Sign up for my email newsletter before January 1 and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner of which will be announced in the first newsletter. If you’ve already signed up, you’re already entered. Here’s the link to my landing page for you to sign up: Email List Signup.
So go ahead, ask me to dance. What have you got to lose?
Movie Magic, my twelfth novel, hits the virtual bookshelves next Tuesday. I’m happy to say this is my best novel yet because it means I’m still improving. I’ve always believed that if you ever think you know everything about the art you practice, you are (a) wrong and (b) gonna get bored fast.
Art is a truly funny thing. It’s everywhere in so many different forms you sometimes miss it. Most people think of art as painting or drawing, but in truth, art is everywhere you look. Everything that someone has put some thought and inspiration and work into in order to create, that’s art. Everything from gardens to cars and buildings. Leonardo DaVinci said we should study the science of art and the art of science in order to learn how everything connects to everything else.
I think this is what I mean when I say there’s magic everywhere and in everyone’s lives if they learn how to look. Right now, I’m watching the wind blow leaves from the trees outside. There’s science there—the biology, physics, meteorology—but what I’m most interested in is the beauty of the yellow-green leaves glinting in the sunlight as they twirl their way down, sometimes lifting a little to sail on the wind a little before continuing their downward dance.
It’s like a play that’s gone from the playwright’s dreams to a director’s plans to the actors’ interpretations—a three-dimensional painting combining art and science and resulting in magic.
Don’t forget to leave me a comment on here for your chance to win the Movie Magic Contest. Leave a comment on any post on this blog telling me about a time you experienced magic for a chance to win a bottle of the magic-inspired perfume I created on Waft.com and a copy of Movie Magic. Contest ends October 28, 2017 and winner will be announced at 10 a.m. Eastern October 31, 2017 on this blog as part of my release day festivities for Movie Magic. Entrants should check this blog for details on how to provide me with a shipping address in case they win.