Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Take Home Tuesday with Leslie Parrish

UPDATE: The winner of a signed copy of BLACK AT HEART by Leslie Parrish is LEE!!! Please send your physical addy to contests @ knightagency.net (remove spaces). Thanks to all who participated. Hope to see you next Tuesday!
Finishing the Hat
People who know me are aware that I’m a big Broadway musical fan. Stephen Sondheim is my favorite composer and "Sunday In The Park With George" one of my favorites of his shows.
The play is about Impressionist artist Georges Seurat, famous for his enormous painting “A Sunday Afternoon On the Island of La Grande Jatte” which hangs in the Chicago Art Institute. He’s also famous for the artistic concept of pointilism…his paintings are comprised of thousands (millions?) of tiny dots of paint. When you look at the painting close up, all you see are dots—points of light and color. As you back away, your eye blends the points into images and you behold what the artist was trying to convey. (FYI: If you’ve seen the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…this is exactly what Ferris does with Seurat’s painting when they visit the art institute!)
There are several songs in the show that relate to the life of any artist—painter, sculptor, even writer. And I often find myself listening to this CD, or humming a few lines of it when I have to deal with issues Seurat deals with in the musical—which is probably why it’s one of my favorites.

First, the issue of pointilism. I find myself thinking about it when writing a mystery-suspense novel where I have to instill tiny hints, clues and red herrings to lead the reader in the direction I want them to go. As the reader comes across those “dots” he doesn’t necessarily see the whole picture yet, but later, when all of them are taken together, the entire scene becomes clear. That’s the best kind of suspense novel, when you get to the end, see the picture, and realize every one of those small points that seemed unimportant have blended together to form something that delights you.

But it’s not all about the art. There’s one song where a modern-day artist is trying to balance his vision of his art with the business side of the art world: “Art isn't easy. Overnight you're a trend, you're the right combination, then the trend's at an end, you're suddenly last year's sensation!” He’s scrambling to be in ten places at once, keeping investors happy, courting buyers and museum reps, wondering how he’s actually going to have time to create another work.

Wow…most people who write for a living will recognize that one. How to balance the promo, the blog, the interviews, the agent, the editor, the bookkeeping, the mailings, the copying, the contests, the taxes, the galleys, the revisions…and still have time to write the next book?

Like the man said…art isn’t easy: “Every minor detail is a major decision, have to keep things in scale, have to hold to your vision.”

Have to hold to your vision. That’s the key line in the song. For me, when all the other stuff gets too loud and intrusive and distracting, I find myself going into a quiet room and sticking earplugs in my ears. I’m trapped in my own head, able to focus on nothing but the story. Quite often, when I hit some kind of wall with my writing, that’s the only way I can push through all the nonsense and focus on the story. Holding tight to that vision pulls me through.

There’s one more song I love in that show, which contains a lesson I think is most important of all. It’s called "Finishing The Hat." In this one, Seurat is trying to do something vitally important to him—finish painting a lady’s hat in his epic work. Meanwhile his mistress, Dot, is drifting away, tired of being pushed out. She always comes second to his work and eventually leaves him altogether.

I think of this song sometimes when I’m trying to prioritize my life. Sometimes I get so caught up in the work that I allow myself to forget I’m supposed to be living a real life as well as creating fictional ones. It’s too easy to say, “Later,” when one of my kids wants to show me something, or to say I’m too busy to attend this party with friends…but I’ll try to make the next one. Like Georges, I find myself instinctively wanting to “finish the hat” rather than pay attention to the people I love.

But unlike Georges, I am usually able to put things back into perspective. Life is short and childhood so fleeting. The people you care about are far more important than any job or even any work of art ever could be. The art is impersonal, it doesn’t feel hurt when you push it aside, doesn’t grow up too fast and leave home while you’re busy doing other things.

People though…spouses, children, siblings, friends. They’re a different story.

So when those moments come, I think about that song. I think about how Georges ends up alone and full of regrets. I put the hat aside, and I pull out the earplugs and I walk into the brightest room of the house that’s filled with the people I love and actually find the time to live. Always knowing that the hat will still there waiting for me when I’m ready to go back to it.

To win a copy of Leslie's latest BLACK CATS NOVEL, BLACK AT HEART, leave your name in the comments section. The winner will be announced tomorrow morning.

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Blogger Suzette said...

What an insightful view of how you put things into perspective.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:51:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Emmanuelle said...

Very intersting post. It's always a real delight for me (for us readers in general I imagine) to get a glimpse at what goes on in an writer's life.
I'm very intrigued by this play you mentioned. It's not the first time I'm hearing about it. Too bad I'm in France where I have very little chance to see it by myself, but who knows ?
Congratulations on your new release.
I'm among those who prefer to wait and read all the books in a row... I'm very impatient to start !!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Pearl said...

Wow, a profound and interesting post! Thank you for this insight in the life of an author.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 10:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Poppy said...

A very interesting and insightful post. Things to really keep in mind, thank you. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Great post. Very inspiring and insightful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eshani said...

That was a really great post! I love how you were able to relate pointilism to writing a novel, and I completely understand the comparison. I also agree that sometimes in our rush to finish chores and tasks, we take the people in our lives for granted. It's always nice to take a step back, slow down, and appreciate the people who love us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:55:00 AM EDT  
Blogger JSB said...

Thank you. I think that was a good reminder for all of us on the writing train.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 12:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger tetewa said...

Enjoyed the post today and your perspective!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Razlover's Book Blog said...

Wow what an interesting post!

Thanks for sharing your insightful view!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 1:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cher said...

Hi Leslie!

I love that song "Art isn't Easy". And it's so true. And Finishing the Hat. I haven't heard that one before. But I won't forget it. Thank you for the great post and not just for writers but for anyone who becomes obsessed with their work.

We all need to remember the hat will still be there.

Congratulations on the release!

Love, Cher

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 1:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jeanette8042 said...

The post was very inetresting to read, and I found it quite insightful.

Have a happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 1:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Pissenlit said...

Great post!

I've been curious about "Sunday In The Park With George". I don't know anyone who's seen/heard it though. My favourite Sondheim musical is "A Little Night Music".

When I first came across Pointilism as a kid, I wondered if the person who invented it was nearsighted. :D

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 2:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger flchen1 said...

Very neat post, Leslie! It's fun/ny what we can learn from musicals :)


Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 2:29:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Lisacfromnc said...

I love how you compared pointilism to how you write a mystery. It is true that in a well written mystery every point is to be pondered, because you never know when the author is offering up an important clue. I just found this website and I am looking forward to reading your work. You sound like a well grounded person with a great life- full of love! Congratulations! As another who knows true happiness there is nothing else like it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 2:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Leslie Parrish said...

Glad to hear I didn't bore everyone to death today with my slightly obscure observations...lol!

Pissenlit--I love SITPWG, probably almost as much as Into The Woods and Assassins. But Sweeney Todd is my # 1. Heck, I love almost all his shows--except Passion. But I will say the first act is much better (imho) than the 2nd when the action moves to the present day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 2:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cathy M said...

I so agree, Leslie. Sometimes I just have to take a breath, pull myself out of whatever project I am working on and just listen. With adult son's living at home this year, you never know when that moment will be when they want to share about their day, or their girlfriends or just want to chat about baseball or a tv show, and it's too important to let that moment slip by, because you will never get it back again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 3:27:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Lee said...

I love 'Sunday in the Park With George'. The line from Finishing the Hat that reads something like.. the type of woman who is willing to wait is not the woman you want waiting for you.. resonates with me for some reason.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 3:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jane said...

I wish it was till on Broadway so that I could see it live.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 3:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kara C said...

'Have to hold to your vision.'
I'm not a writer, but there's a thought I needed today! Thanks for that.
I love the Black CATS series. I hope it is able to continue passed the first three books.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 5:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Maureen said...

It's so true. I know it feels like my kids grew up too quickly and now they are going to school, working and out with friends. I read and enjoyed the first two books in the series. I was amazed at how I didn't know who the villian was until the end.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 5:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger RKCharron said...

Thank you for the interesting blog post.
I love Leslie Parrish's writing.
All the best,
twitter: @RKCharron

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 6:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger ddurance said...

What a meaningful post! Just throwing my name in the "hat" for the drawing.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Paula R said...

Hey Les, sorry I got here so late. I loved the blog and the comparisons you make between Seurat's life and the writer's life. I think the message at the end is of the most import...sometimes you just gotta step away from the hat and enter into your life, so that it doesn't pass you by. I have seen that painting in movies, but I would love to see it in real life. Great blog topic. I hope that you had a wonderful blogging here today.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:31:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Chelsea B. said...

Really great post!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger ColleenFL said...

Very interesting post. I had forgotten about that scene in Ferris Buehler. Now I'll have to watch the movie again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 8:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger macbeaner said...

Sounds like a great book! And what an intriguing post!

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 9:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Serraphena said...

Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your world, and for teaching me something about art!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 10:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Mint said...

I enjoyed reading your comments. I always like to read about authors I like. Thank you for sharing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lori T said...

Great post. Leslie, I am really looking forward to reading your series.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:53:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this Seurat painting at The Art Institute of Chicago years ago. Really cool.

Can't wait to check out your new series. I love your other books, so I'm sure I'll enjoy these as well. :)


Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Pam P said...

Interesting insights, Leslie. I'm a big fan of Broadway musicals from way back.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 12:48:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congrats on your books and great reaviews.
thanks fo rthe interview


Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:34:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congrats on your books and great reaviews.
thanks fo rthe interview


Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Amanda McIntyre said...

Right on target with this one and profoundly true! Well done!
Will have to pick up this music CD.

Amanda McIntyre

Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 9:23:00 AM EDT  

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