Amy Flannery's Birthday
I want to take today to talk a little about the incredibly talented and amazing woman who I am lucky enough to have won as a sister when I married my husband. (Let the record show that I also won another amazingly smart and fantastic sister when I married my husband- who is wickedly funny and generous. But that is a story for another day.) Amy is smart and funny and an undeniably talented artist. She has worked in many mediums, and if I can convince her to create an online portfolio you can see for yourself- until then, I want to talk a little bit about how her art helped me to see my own work in a different light.
It was August and we were at the cottage- where my husband's family gathered each summer to play in the lake and be together. I had lugged the first draft of my novel with me- a monstrous thing that I was intent on revising. In between swimming and tubing, I was working out how to reorganize my story into a book, and Amy was kind enough to ask me about it- not knowing what she was getting into.
[side note here: Writers are dangerous people to live with. To paraphrase the singer Erykah Badhu, "I'm a writer, and I'm sensitive about my sh#t..." My husband Steve has wonderful skin. It never seems to age. Look at him sometime- it's like he has no pores. Beautiful. And yet I think the years he has spent listening to me talk about my writing created a special set of lines on his face that come from having to listen and carefully control his facial expressions so that I don't immediately shut down and start passive/aggressively "changing the topic."... So he gets huge props as my number one listener- on all my work. He earned those lines...but back to Amy...]
As she asked me questions, a skill that is a family trait passed down from her mother, Connie Marshall, a Jedi at conversation, I found myself organizing and shaping my story, much like the mosaic artwork I had seen her do. Her skill at placing images and colors next to each other- so that the art isn't pre-packaged for the viewer, but instead engages the viewer to create an image from what they are seeing- that was inspiring. I started to think about how I could break up my writing into pieces I could put together to create a story that was a collaboration with the reader; that between my pieces and their imagination, I could create a narrative they could see: that inspired my editing. I was so grateful for her help. So of course I asked for more....[see the note above about the dangers of writers...]
As I completed my edits, I was at a loss for a visual image for my book cover, and I asked my artist sister-in-law if she had any ideas. She did.
She created a polymer clay mosaic portrait of my heroine, Hannah. She took an ancient art form and using modern materials, created a visual shape to my work. It reflected a deep understanding of what I am trying to do with these stories. I take ancient stories and reframe them in modern life. I don't have words to express what this meant to me. It is a priceless gift. There are so many aspects to Amy's life that deserve praise on this, her birthday; her generous heart, her talents as a teacher, her roles as mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin and friend, her humor and her beauty and her faith. All of these are true and important. But I wanted to take the time today to celebrate her vision as an artist. It changed my life, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you, Amy.