I attended the Lighthouse Writers Workshop facilitated book discussion group on Friday, April 18, along with a number of LAC members and other participants interested in literature. The book being discussed was Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping". A National Endowment of the Arts grant to the Lighthouse Writers Workshop allowed for distribution of free copies to organizations such as the LAC, which participated in the "Big Read". Books were available at the gallery in February, and takers were encouraged to sign up for the book discussion event.
Dan Manzanares, Creative Curator and staff member of the LWW, and educated in the literary arts, led a "generative" session for our book discussion which delved into the meaning, mechanics and mental images of the novel. This generative approach was achieved by four different prompts, asking us to respond by sketching our reaction, or writing a brief response.
In prompt #2, we examined a mysterious section of the book which made us question reality and how it is experienced by Ruthie and Sylvie, the two main characters.
Water was an all-encompassing theme in this book, in all its forms: ice, snow, flood, rain, lakewater. As a metaphor for consciousness, we again examined a section of the book and visually or literally recorded our response to it. And lastly, speculations were shared: the author's methods, mechanics, our thoughts on how the book fit into the events of the time period. Although consensus was that it presented a dreary overtone, with a lack of plot, her writing was lyrical and enjoyable to experience and the discussion session was beneficial in not only understanding the book itself, but made us examine our own reactions to it.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Laurey is a member of the Lakewood Arts Council and belongs to the LAC Co-op Gallery. She provided me with a copy of her professional biography:
L.F. (Laurey) Patten was raised on classic fantasy. By age fourteen, she already counted herself among the denizens of Middle Earth, Camelot, Narnia, Melnibone, Earthsea and a score of other worlds that hid alluringly behind fantastical cover paintings on the shelves of the local bookstore. Though chastised by school friends for reading “the wrong books,” she always preferred action-filled tales of swords and sorcery, castles, myths and, above all, history, to the more “socially acceptable” genre of teen romance.
Though born in Washington D.C., Laurey spent most of her youth in northern New Jersey, receiving a B.A. in History, with a minor in Medieval Lit., which she followed up with two years of archaeological field work in Great Britain, working on Romano-Celtic and Medieval sites. It was while digging clay from the moat of Sandal Castle, in Yorkshire, that Laurey first discovered what would become a life-long fascination with pottery. Upon her return to the States, she moved back to the nation’s capital to pursue a graduate degree in Archaeology. But working in the corporate world in order to feed her archaeology/pottery habit proved far too left-brained an endeavor. While moonlighting as a tour guide at the Smithsonian, Laurey met, and married, fellow archaeology-enthusiast and flintknapper Bob Patten, and happily re-located to Denver, Colorado, where they currently make their home.
Laurey has often characterized her multitude of interests as A.D.D of the Right Brain. During her checkered career, she has taught High School history, worked at a planetarium, a blood bank, rock shop and an off- (off- off- off-) Broadway theater. A certified herbalist, she has also studied fencing, opera singing, drawing, silk-painting, watercolors and oils. She currently teaches pottery and metal-clay jewelry at the Washington Heights Arts Center in Lakewood, CO. Her career in writing began when she published her first short story in a college anthology, and she has spent the last twenty-odd years writing articles and stories (mostly fantasy) and editing archaeology books. Her first published novel, the heroic fantasy The Talent Sinistral, is a loving tribute to her earliest influences, and to fellow right-brainers everywhere.
I also sent Laurey a questionnaire to complete. Here are her answers:
1. How did you get started in creating art?
I guess I’ve always created stuff. When I was a kid, my folks couldn’t afford to furnish my “doll house” (a set of shelves) so I started upholstering Velveeta boxes. As a teenager, I discovered that doing portraits was a great way to get backstage to meet rock & roll stars, so I taught myself to draw and paint. As for clay, my mom used to make “play doh” for us on rainy days. Years later, while working an archaeological dig at a castle in England, we spent summer evenings making and firing pots from clay we dug out of the moat. It never occurred to me that I was being particularly creative. I just did whatever the circumstances called for.
As for writing, I like to think it all started back in ‘88, when I kissed the Blarney Stone. But the truth is, I’d had a few short stories in print before that. It wasn’t until I became fascinated with the left hand/right brain connection, and the historic prejudice against all things “lefty” (most people don’t realize that the words sinister and gauche actually mean left) that the plot of a novel began to materialize. The result was the heroic fantasy, The Talent Sinistral. (And no, I’m not left-handed. I’m pretty much an “ambi,” though it was interesting to discover that “ambi-dexterous” really means “two right hands.” )
2. What is your favorite medium, and why?
My favorite is usually whatever I happen to be working on at the moment — unless, for some reason, I HAVE to be doing in, in which case I resent the heck out of it. Generally, I switch around a lot. When I hit a snag in my writing, I’ll go do something else for a while and let the problem percolate in the background. Pottery is probably the best way to let my mind veg out. It can be very Zen. I maintain that I suffer from A.D.D. of the right brain, so I want to try everything. But, of course, that means I don’t get really expert at very much. No matter. I just love seeing what I can come up with. I often surprise myself.
3. What are your favorite subjects?
Since I majored in European history and archaeology, Medieval, Celtic, or primitive themes often find their way into my work. Most of what I write is heroic fantasy (magical sword and sorcery stuff), set in a Medieval-esque world, and a lot of the jewelry designs I come up with reflect that style. The pottery mugs I make are fashioned after Medieval beakers, and I’ve even done a series of castle tankards—with dragons.
4. Do you have a vision for a body of work you would like to create?
Well, writing-wise, I have a sequel and a pre-quel in the works. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing artwork, pottery and jewelry designs that in some way tie into the stories. That’s as far ahead as I’m willing to think.
5. How do you find time for all you do?
In short, I don’t—which is why I haven’t finished a sequel yet, nor have I produced any paintings since the cover art. (And why it’s taken me so long to finish this questionnaire!) I’m semi-retired, so I only teach about six pottery and precious metal clay (jewelry) classes a month. Teaching is just an extension of doing what I love, so it’s not really work. After 30 years, it doesn’t even require much prep. Right now, promoting the book (a distinctly left-brained activity) is taking up a lot of the time I’d rather spend creating, so quite a few projects, like painting, are on “hold,” and many new crafts I’d like to try will likely have to wait for another lifetime.
6. How did you find out about LAC and what do you find most enjoyable/beneficial about being a member?
Working for Lakewood, I’ve known about LAC and the co-op for a long while. I’ve shown my work in galleries before, but got burned out when required to create on demand. Recently, I’ve found myself with so much pottery and jewelry inventory that I need an outlet, and LAC seemed like a good fit. I love being around creative people. They inspire me to create more. I’m enthusiastic about the creative process and learning what inspires others. Though I’m relatively new to the co-op, I find it a fun and talented group that I’m proud to be part of. And I really love the goal of bringing art to the community.
7. What’s next on the horizon?
Aside from book publicity, I can’t think that far ahead. I’m sure I’ll find out, when the time’s right.
8. Has your work changed over the years?
As with everything, the more I do, the better at it I get. But the themes I enjoy haven’t changed.
9. Which artists do you admire most?
Wow, I could write a whole essay on this (but I won’t). A lot of names come to mind. There are so many artists/writers with so many wildly varied techniques, it’s hard to choose favorites. I admire so much of what so many artists do, but I can’t really say there is any single artist/writer whose work I universally love across the board. I’m fascinated by Impressionists – and not solely in art. I appreciate writers who, rather than impose their own vision of a scene in painstaking detail, will provide just enough precise elements for the reader to fill in the rest from their own imagination.
So – trying to come up with names. In art, I guess among those whose work I REALLY admire would be Monet (of course) and, more contemporary, David Drummond and Michael Atkinson, among a host of others. In writing, well, I cut my teeth on J.R.R. Tolkein, as did most fantasy authors. When I began writing, I tried to emulate the clear prose style of John Jakes’ early work (he started in sci/fi fantasy, before he got side-tracked to historical fiction.) I also hugely admire Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman, for their amazing imaginations. But again I don’t love EVERYTHING they’ve written. I realize these choices are pretty genre-specific, but hey, I’m a fantasy writer!
Stop in the LAC Gallery and see some of Laurey's work!