Interview by Kiva Navarro
Marta Pelrine Bacon is an author and artist of elevated talent. She creates images that capture the essence of her stories, and with the recent release of her debut novel, The Blue Jar , Marta is quickly rising as a storyteller to watch. Pieces of her artwork have displayed at local events and coffee shops around Austin, which is a testament to the quality of her work. In this brief interview, she shares her personal experiences and a few words of wisdom to aspiring artists and writers.
What would you say is the hardest part of the writing process, and how do you work through it?
The hardest part of the writing process for me is the fear of what people will think, which is not a unique fear, is it? I tend to go through life trying to be polite, reasonable, and diplomatic. I watch my language and all that. But those qualities don’t necessarily make for a compelling story. I’ve got characters who say and do things I would never do–as any writer does. But all the rationalizing in the world doesn’t dispel the fear of judgment.
But how do I work through it? I’ve yet to find a way to diminish the fear much less get rid of it. I just follow that quote (said by I don’t know who), feel the fear and do it anyway. I think about my son in the future. Do I want him thinking his mother wanted to write and draw but was too afraid of other opinions that she didn’t? No. I want him to see that we can worry about these things and yet put ourselves out there anyway.
I tell my son and my students not to let other people’s opinions limit them. So, I’ve got to practice what I preach.
You are both an artist and a writer, which came first for you?
I’d have to say art came first because I could paint pictures before I could write the alphabet. In fact, my mom told me I knew my color wheel before I could read. As a kid I wrote poems and made art. I had art shows in my grandmother’s living room and put my poems in her Christmas and birthday cards.
You pose a question on your website asking, “What is art,” but what does art mean to you?
That’s a big question. I suppose it means freedom. Art can be anything the artist wants it to be. I can let out whatever is in my head. Art means the freedom to express myself and to be myself. I can be alone in a room for hours and focus on creating something, and the limits are only my own skills. Art is that hard to pin down and explain part of the brain that nonetheless demands attention. But in a way, trying to explain what art means to me is like trying explain what air means. I can’t live without it.
In your debut novel, The Blue Jar, you mention on your website that it took about fourteen years to complete, at what point did you realize it was ready for publication?
Someone else agreed with me is the simplest answer. At one point I knew the story wasn’t done, but I couldn’t get any perspective on what wasn’t working. I finally hired a trusted editor to read it and give me honest feedback. I needed someone not invested in our friendship to read it. He wrote quite a lot on what worked and what didn’t. I made a few minor plot changes and reworked a few scenes. And then I felt I’d done all I could. I didn’t have it in me to work on it anymore. I sent it to my publisher and other than typos and minor things, she said she’d publish it. I think if she had said, no, this is isn’t ready, I would have put the manuscript away and never looked at it again.
What kind of advice can you offer to aspiring writers and artists?
I don’t have anything new to add to lots of other advice. Go listen to some Neil Gaiman talks for inspiration if you need to (doesn’t even matter if you like his writing). But I’ll say, don’t give up. Even if you can’t write every day or if you go six years without writing anything, if you want to write, write. I’ve got a job, a husband, a kid, three dogs, and last year I spent going through cancer treatment. I still wrote. So, I’d follow that with people like me have no super powers. Don’t think you need super powers to write. I’m insecure, obsessive, and not as talented as plenty of other writers out there. But I keep at it. I’m not in a war zone. I’m nowhere near rich, but I’ve got a house in a safe neighborhood and a supportive family. I’ve got no good excuse not to write other than my own head. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Find friends who support you. Time is going to pass whether you write or make art or do nothing. My cancer diagnosis was a great reminder of my mortality, and I’m just not going to come to my end one day saying, “Well, I spent my time thinking about what I could have done.” And if you’re waiting for someone to come along and give you the permission, the time, the whatever you think you need, you will wait a long time. Hey, I give you permission if that’s what you need. The rest is up to you.
To find out more about Marta Pelrine Bacon and experience her works, visit her website at http://martapelrinebacon.com.