Shchukin & Withers: Paris Made Collectors

Foundation Louis Vuitton by Christine und Hagen Graf via Flickr
Foundation Louis Vuitton by Christine und Hagen Graf via Flickr

The Arts & Leisure section of Sunday’s New York Times featured an article on Paris’ next landmark exhibition, “Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection,” opening at the Louis Vuitton Foundation on October 22. The exhibition features 130 Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Modern works from the collection of this early 20th-century collector.

Shchukin, a textile heir and magnate, began buying art in the late 1890s, building a collection of 275 works before the start of World War I. He fled to Paris when his home and collection were seized by the state during Lenin’s purge of the bourgeois. The Russian government dismantled, nearly destroyed, but thankfully distributed his art to Russian Museums where the magnificent paintings languished in obscurity and the collector’s name was erased from their provenance. Now, though his grandson’s efforts, the collector and the collection are once again making art history.

Sergei Schukin by Dm. Melnikov (1915) (WikiCommons)
Sergei Shchukin by Dm. Melnikov (1915) (WikiCommons)

Shchukin’s story, through real, is the stuff of fiction. I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this real art lover-collector and, Lance Henry Withers, a fictional character in my recent novel, Provenance. Because of government persecution, they both sought refuge in Paris. Shchukin and Withers used art to heal the loss of home and loved ones. By collecting, they experienced Paris and life through the arts. Influenced by Gertrude and Leo Stein, they learned how to find beauty and meaning in Impressionism, post-Impressionism and Modern art—what they first perceived as canvases of colorful chaos.

The disposition of Lance Henry Withers’ collection is a primary theme in Promise, the second volume my Provenance series, due out in early 2017. Promise continues Withers’ story with the fate of his fictional and fabulous collection informed by research on collectors J. Paul Getty, Arthur Barnes, Walter Chrysler,  Joseph Hirshhorn, The Steins, The Rockefellers and others. Perhaps Sergei Shchukin should be on that list. Sounds like a great reason to do research in Paris this fall.

You can see the New York Times article about the Paris exhibition of the Shchukin collection here and, you can read about Lance Henry Withers’ collection in my novel, Provenance. You can find more information about the “Icons of Modern Art” exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation here.

 

Great Experience at the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival

First, I must thank my wonderful family and great friends, as well as the book-lovers and dedicated volunteers who, despite the relentless rain, were there to support the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival. A very special thanks to my friend, Maryetta, who braved I-95 and drove down from New Jersey for the event. Thank you, thank you, thank you one and all!

This was my first time as a featured author at the Festival and I had a great time connecting with readers and other authors. As a fiction writer I spend a lot of time alone making up people and their stories so, it’s exceptional when you have the opportunity to get out and experience how your writing resonates with real people. I met a woman whose daughter sent her a copy of Provenance. This woman flew in from the Midwest to meet me at the Festival so that I could sign her copy of my book. She told me that she thought the book was important, that she had learned about passing, a part of the African American experience that she knew nothing about. She thanked me for writing such a beautiful book; that was pretty special, so I thanked her too.

I think writers, by nature, are not all that comfortable talking about themselves or their books, I know that’s true for me. I also know that meeting and interacting with readers is a vital part of being of being published and I’m working on getting more comfortable with that aspect of being an author. I’m hard at work on the next book in the Provenance series so the interest and enthusiasm I experienced that day will help me stay the course with Promise. If my experience at Gaithersburg Book Festival is an example what’s to come, I think I’m going to like this author thing!

If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s Festival, I’ve posted a brief video from my presentation (if you listen closely you can hear the raindrops cascading on the tent). The rain didn’t stop us for a second! Check out the moisture defying smiles and styles in photos on the Gaithersburg Book Festival Facebook page.

 

Why Do You Write?

cropped-cropped-iStock_000009439591Large.jpgI asked a wonderfully cerebral friend of my daughter’s if he was planning to attend my reading at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on the 21st of May. Afraid of facing empty chairs at my event, I am unapologetically asking EVERYONE that question in these days leading up to the Festival. My young friend told me that he’d be there and that he was ready with questions that he planned to ask me.

“Like what? Give me an example,” I asked, confident that I was prepared to field any question about my book.

“I’d like to know why you write.”  His question stopped me cold.

No one had ever asked me that before. I’ve been asked what I write about, how I write, when, where and how long but never, why?

Words on paper have always been my preferred method of communication. I was the shy child in an outgoing family and found refuge in reading and eventually courage and encouragement when I expressed myself in writing. When I write I have every sentiment and delivery skill at my disposal—tools I find harder to access in verbal communication. There are rarely, “Wish I’d said that, or hadn’t said that,” moments in a manuscript. Omniscience can be obtained through research and experience. Thoughtful beginnings, middles and ends can be crafted in stories carefully plotted and executed. I can make story arcs and characters curve in the direction I choose. Loose ends are tied, what’s lost can be found and, love and happiness can blossom with a few keystrokes. And, there is always the opportunity for revision. This is what I like about writing—it is not why I write.

I’m not sure I have a profound answer to my young friend’s insightful question. The closest I can come is to say that like the color of my eyes, the sound of my voice, being part of my family—it is something I was born with. Ideas and images compel their way through me to become what I write. Why I write is the same reason I breathe—because I have to.

What compels you to do the creative thing you do? Leave me a note in the comments section, I’d love to hear why you do what you do.

Join me at the Virginia Festival of the Book – Sunday, March 20, 2016

VaBookFestival2016-Orig

 

 

 

The Virginia Festival of the Book brings readers and writers together for a five-day celebration of books, reading, literacy, and literary culture. The 22nd Annual Festival will be held March 16-20, 2016 and I’ll be presenting at two events on Sunday, March 20:

Celebration Brunch: A Tribute to the African-American Literary Tradition

I’ll be one of the featured authors at the during the 2016 event presented by The Charlottesville Chapter of The Links Incorporated. The event includes brunch, musical and spoken word performances by community youth, a tribute to book festival authors, book sales and signing. Tickets are $60 and available in advance only.

Sunday, March 20
11:30 – 2:30
Charlottesville Omni Hotel
212 Ridge McIntire Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets

 

Fiction in France: La Fiction en France

Authors Michael Keenan Gutierrez (The Trench Angel), Bonnie MacBird (Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure) and Donna Drew Sawyer (Provenance: A Novel) discuss the role France plays in their books. Emily Martin, the director of Alliance Française of Charlottesville, the largest cultural network in the world promoting French language and culture, will moderate the panel.

Sun. March 20, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Central Branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
201 E Market Street,  Charlottesville, VA

About the Virginia Festival of the Book

Produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), the largest of the fifty-six state (and territory) humanities councils, the Festival is a program of the Virginia Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

The Festival is the largest community-based book event in the Mid-Atlantic region and has attracted audiences of more than 20,000 for each of the past twelve years. The Festival has presented a captivating list of authors, ranging from international bestsellers to topical specialists to debut authors. An abbreviated list of past participants includes Edward Ayers, David Baldacci, Maureen Corrigan, Edwidge Danticat, Kate DiCamillo, Rita Dove, Jan Karon, John Grisham, Jim Lehrer, Frances Mayes, Colum McCann, David McCullough, Alice McDermott, Katherine Paterson, Lisa Scottoline, Pete Seeger, Karin Slaughter, Alexander McCall Smith, Lee Smith, Elizabeth Strout, Judith Viorst, and Charles Wright.

Programs range from traditional author readings and book signings to a StoryFest day of children’s authors and storybook characters; from a panel on how to publish a novel to a discussion on running a book club to a workshop on bookbinding. All programs are open to the public; with the exception of a few ticketed events, programs are free of charge.

The Festival is presented through a unique partnership of contributors that includes VFH, foundations, corporations, bookstores, schools, libraries, area businesses and organizations, and committed individuals. This partnership results in programs on a wide range of topics set among a variety of venues throughout the City of Charlottesville, County of Albemarle, and the University of Virginia.

Visit the Festival site for more information on authors and programs.

Belong to a Book Club? Can We Talk?

I Just Love Book Clubs

Does your book club crave fiction that begs to be talked about? Well, have I got a book for you! My novel, Provenance, is perfect book club fiction—a page-turner that leads to lively discussions about race, family, love, lust, deception, history, heritage and destiny. The novel’s flawed and captivating characters will give you plenty to talk about and stay with you long after the book’s final page. As the author I’m more than a little biased in my opinion of Provenance, so here’s what other readers have said.

I’d love to join your book club, writer’s group, civic or social club, sorority or fraternity (yes – men like the book too!) for a discussion of Provenance. Read a full chapter Excerpt from Provenance then, contact me here and let’s find the best way to get together for some spirited conversation—in person, via Skype or an online chat.

So, let’s talk!