At least I can say that I tried to be culturally relevant. Cut me some slack, please. I’m a medievalist.
Lately I’ve been paying attention to attention–specifically, to the attention we give to some and not others. As a writer endeavoring to make her way into the magical Narnia of publication, I think about this a lot. I study other artists–not just their work, but their personas, their critical and popular reception, their social media strategies.
It’s not something I’ll stop thinking about any time soon, but here’s my big takeaway so far–a lot of the people making amazing art are not getting the attention they deserve.
Let me rephrase this. With an electronic megaphone.
THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE MAKING AMAZING ART THAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT.
And you want to know about it. You need it. We all need good art, to paraphrase a wildly famous writer-guy who doesn’t need my shoutout or probably anybody’s.
Here are some people making things that make the world a lovelier place.
Angela Marie Carter is a writer and tireless advocate for mental health, as well as a selfless champion of other writers. This is the short version. Her list of accomplishments is longer than my arm, and I have pretty long arms. Not orangutan arms. But you get the point. She’s amazing, and you should read her words because they matter.
Karissa Knox Sorrell has a gorgeous book of poems out. I first encountered her via a guest post she wrote about post-baby body image on another blog. She is a human of deep insight and great compassion, and one of those wondrous poets who is capable of being simultaneously profound and relatable.
Tania Pryputniewicz is super-cool and does this amazing tarot-inspired writing that you just have to check out for yourself. She is also a visual artist. And she has a book of poems, November Butterfly, that is chock-full of deep soul-magic and allusions to mythology, which I adore. Also she is super-cool. I may have said that already. But it bears repeating.
Lena Coakley is the YA writer you don’t know about that you should know about. Her first book, Witchlanders, is amazing and struck me as exactly what there is not enough of, ever, in YA fantasy–exquisite prose plus a wildly imaginative plot in which there are no love triangles AT ALL. Plus there is a dog named Bodread the Slayer and I LOVE HIM. Her second book, Worlds of Ink and Shadow, imagines a past in which the Bronte siblings’ imagined worlds are real and the brother and sisters can journey to them. Swoon.
Matthew Cody is another writer who deserves to be just as big-name as the big-namers. I met him at the Virginia Festival of the Book a few years ago, and he was wonderfully encouraging and kind. Later, I had a fascinating Twitter exchange with him, in which he told me that his middle-grade steampunky/dark fantasy/zombie T-Rex/creepy novel The Dead Gentleman had never really “found its audience.” I am on a one-woman crusade to change this fact. Please join me. Oh, and read his other stuff about a kid without powers in a town of superheros and the Pied Piper and….well, just go read it.
Jon Skovron is another writer I met at the Festival, and he writes fantastic books about things like guitar-playing teens and Frankenstein’s monster’s son and a half-demon girl dealing with teenage angst and bad hair and being the spawn of Satan. If you sign up for his newsletter, you can read a sneak peek of his upcoming adult fantasy, Hope and Red, which, HOLY COW, PEOPLE, is shaping up to be a piratical adventure of sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious, and always epic proportions.
Elizabeth Massie, in addition to being one of the best teachers I ever had, has won the Bram Stoker award–twice, because once would just be underachieving. She has written horror, historical fiction, historical horror, lovely non-horrific poems to read at night, contemporary fiction, a picture book that is not for children, media tie-ins, song lyrics, and maybe everything else. Imagine what it would be like if your eighth grade science teacher read you original horror stories during break, and envy me. Then go check out her website.
Writers on writing (and a thousand other things…..):
Ksenia Anske writes fantasy, as well as a blog that writers should read. Everyone else, too, because it’s often hysterically funny, movingly dark, and always deeply real. She’s an indie author who self-publishes, offering her books to readers for free and relying on the power of her words to persuade them to buy said books. I think she is hella brave. And her sense of humor is deliciously wry and twisted.
Sue Archer‘s blog is a gem. She writes helpfully and hilariously about grammar, using science fiction analogies. It’s a thing of beauty. She is also a wonderfully generous human and a great encourager of other writers.
Suzi Banks Baum is the person I want to be when I grow up. She writes and actually physically makes these gorgeous journals that will make you want to write War and Peace-length novels. Her blog is exquisite, her words like brushstrokes, each loaded with color and light. If you are a mama who longs to be an artist, you need this blog in your world. It will make you weep with relief that there is someone else out there who “gets it.” Not that I ever weep over a blog. Ahem.
Vanessa Herald is magical and so is her TinyLetter. Subscribe, and you are guaranteed to find something in your inbox every day that will make your day lovelier. She’s also doing a massively cool 365 project in which she types a quote on a retro typewriter and photographs it beautifully against some intriguing backdrop. She writes about writing, farming, insecurities, life, beauty, travel, dogs–all the good stuff. You need this stuff.
Lori Archer Sutherland writes a blog called Tonal Diversions, in which she explains a piece of music as you listen to it. It’s like your own private music appreciation class, which I think is brilliant. Plus Lori is just a freakin’ fantastic human being, and I know this because I knew her way back in high school when everyone else was kind of a mess, especially me, and she was consistently a voice of compassionate reason.
Stan Stewart makes music. Lots of music! And writes about it, and keeps up with the industry, and generally awes me with his generosity and social media savvy as well as his musical talent. I have not met Stan in real life but I feel like he is that guy who everybody at the party wants to talk with because he makes them all feel like the center of attention. Check out his music here. My favorite is his wild trancelike “Pray4Nepal.”
Cara Walton is a brilliant photographer and the history teacher you wish you’d had. She’s especially fascinated by the strange beauties inherent in decay. I’ve gotten to collaborate with her by writing text to accompany some of her pictures, which is pretty much the easiest gig ever because she is truly a storyteller behind the lens.
Tracee Vetting Wolf makes very cool and uplifting art, including gemlike little love-notes she puts in her son’s lunchbox every single day. Lucky kiddo. Everyone is so wowed by them that she has turned some of them into little sets of perfectly tiny cards that you can write your own love-notes on while you imagine what it would be like to have such a rich, quirky, magical, beautiful vision of the world.
Beekeepers: Because as any beekeeper can tell you, all the science in the world will teach you a lot about bees but may have absolutely no obvious bearing upon your success with them. So it’s an art, people. A tasty, buzzy art.
The Prospect of Bees. Come for the lovely and well-thought-out prose, because these are probably the most articulate beekeepers you’ll ever encounter. Probably some of the most articulate human beings, for that matter. Stay for the honest and insightful look at the highs and lows of beekeeping. If you’ve ever thought about keeping bees, this is a great resource.
So, if you haven’t yet fallen down one of these lovely and worthwhile internet rabbit-holes–what are you waiting for?? Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll find some new art here to delight and inspire you. Please say hello from your side in the comments if there’s an artist you know who deserves attention!
Okay, I gotta go take off these ten layers of exactly-like-Adele’s makeup before my kids get home and wonder when I’m joining the circus.