To quench the muse.
Sometimes I still can’t believe I finished the book. When I think back to my writing journey, I usually decide that in many ways Lost in the City of Flowers wrote itself.
The few months after I finished grad school were a tangle of emotions. Even before, I felt something was a miss. I mistook this unsettling feeling as a spike in my awkward and nostalgic personality, but as it turns out, I was just chasing a wrong dream. The spark came with a faint idea on a sweaty afternoon.
Dirt kicked up from rubber sneakers and cracked shovels swirled in the air. In a constant battle with the heat, children took mouthfuls of water and retreated into the shade. Several of the older kids pulled out books they were reading for reports. They mostly said that so others wouldn’t get the wrong idea. Most of these books involved some brand of witchcraft, vampires, or werewolves. “That’s kind of limiting,” I thought, and then, just like that, there was light. As an art history fiend, I sometimes wondered whether there was a way to get young audiences interested in art history.
Could I fit the study into an enthralling journey that is also educational? I know it’s a scary word for many, and an instant turn-off for the rest, but I don’t mean it in a preaching way. Trust me, I mean it in an interesting way. For most, art is intriguing, but it’s also confusing. At times, it even seems as if art historians and critics write stuff up with the sole purpose of confusing everyone except for the few familiar with its jargon (a charge that even I might be guilty of).
“History is a great adventure, and art is just one of the many paths that takes your hand and leads you through it.” —Mrs. Reed
The idea of inspiration as a muse is as old as the human race itself but she is a tricky dame. I was lucky enough to be graced by her presence and so we talked. What if there was a series of art adventures that sketched the history of art and made its progression more understandable? Objects of the past are brimming with all those things that make a fantastic story: war, love, death, struggle, triumph, and invention. Although this is a short list with no particular order, it is also a tiny testament to what can be discovered from those who walked before us. The muse wisely suggested I add a fictional story line as the rest would be history. The idea flourished and the muse would visit me often after that first day on the playground. I had a choice, I could do nothing with my gift, and leave it for someone else to find, or I could just do it.
I wrote the book with pencil and paper. Of course it was a struggle, but there were also beautiful mornings when I was just a vessel that words used to scribble themselves out. Lost in the City of Flowers is out in the world now, as are millions of other books. Yet, every single time one befriends the heroine, and join her on her expeditions through art’s past, it certainly feels like a victory to me, and the muse.