Friday, January 27, 2017

Guerrilla Girls

Two members of the anonymous group of female artists known as Guerrilla Girls came to Rock Island’s Augustana College. Frida Kahlo was the speaker in Centennial Hall on a chilly January night. She presented a slide show of public activism that dated back to 1986. She used the F word, feminism, fairly often.

We saw lots of posters, stickers, and guerrilla masks. The full head masks were surprisingly mobile and expressive. The bananas thrown out to the audience were a nice touch.

I always enjoy a dose of statistics and those presented for the inclusion of female artists in major museums were low, low, low. Same for artists of color. Same for artists of non-mainstream sexual orientation.

Other evidence presented: A brief overview of clothing options through the major periods of art history—Greek, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Modern.

Greece-nude guys
Middle Ages-everyone but the baby Jesus was clothed
Renaissance-lots of clothing
Modern-the majority of women bare it all

One point that was made often: Rich white men were paying big bucks to influence the art market and were thereby defining our culture through what is purchased and shown in museums. An interesting thought. Do museums really exist to provide extra storage space for the art collections of wealthy folks?

My own thoughts reflected back on the research I did on art forgery in preparation for my novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill. I came across some interesting statistics on how much forged art is out there. Possibly quite a bit. As much as 40% of all fine art in museums and collections could be forgeries, fakes.

Hummm … that means those rich white guys may not be getting their millions of dollars worth of art value. Tsk, tsk.

So, if you see “Painted in the style of…,” you might want to pause before buying. Better yet, go out and look around for the work of some under-represented artists, female or otherwise. Then your art purchase will be a good deal for the artist, and a shot in the arm for our culture as a whole. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Call for Guest Columnists

The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus are once again seeking guest columnists for their Viewpoints page. Up to 5 writers will be chosen to produce 1 column every 5 weeks and be paid for their work.

As a former guest columnist I can say that it’s a great opportunity for any writer looking for more exposure and experience. I dug out my entry for the 2008 call and reprinted it below and left it as it was submitted.

I was lucky in that Governor Blagojevich gave me the perfect pedestal to stand on. I could gather facts and opinions just by walking down the street to get a cup of coffee. Distilling all that information into a compact column of 600 words was a bit harder and I went through a lot of rewrites in a short amount of time. Yes, I was pushing the deadline.

The deadline for 600 words is BEFORE midnight on Feb.5th

Look for all the details in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus newspapers. 

Go for it!

Don’t Wait to See Bishop Hill
By Mary Davidsaver

“You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone,” a common refrain usually said with sad overtones of regret.  Well, it didn’t happen this time around, at least, not yet.
Governor Blagojevich’s amendatory penmanship stirred up some dust over here in Illinois, maybe more than anyone expected.  Could be he thought no one would notice or care if state parks and historic sites closed their doors, barred the gates, and quietly went away.  Wrong—it was noticed right away.
It got a lot of people to rise up off their sofas, brush off the crumbs, and get active for their cause.
For some, it’s been a crash course in Civic Activism 101.  For others, it was doing the work that was necessary; to sit by and do nothing was not an option.
The first petitions to “save” the Bishop Hill State Historic Site in Henry County got out so fast that they had to be rewritten when further details became available. 
A committee formed to coordinate the information that needed to be gathered.  Petitions went out to all the surrounding towns and letters of support were garnered from everywhere possible.  The dry statistics that proved the financial impact of the proposed closings were gathered and collected into a notebook that grew in thickness as the days passed.  It was copied numerous times and passed around wherever possible. 
Most importantly, it was working the telephones, talking to the right people, and getting appointments in Springfield to talk to even more people. 
The response from our local elected officials was fast, sincere, and as effective as possible.  Rep. Don Moffitt came on short notice and returned often.  His support mirrored that of thousands of others.
The result was getting noticed and making a difference.  The closing date has been pushed back twice so far.
One might wonder if any good can come from a mess such as this.  Well, there is good to be had aside from this new found activism and community cohesion.
When you live in a small historic community like Bishop Hill, it can become easy to believe that the world revolves around you.  This coming crisis of closing the state historic sites has proven that to be a false belief.  Yes, we have support pouring in from local and international sources, but there are many more folks out there who haven’t a clue what all the fuss is about.  These are the ones who will call or email to ask if anything is still open, as if there’s a gate at either end of town that is going to be closed and locked somehow, as if there is nothing else here besides the state sites. 
Businesses have resorted to posting signs in their windows to reassure their customers that the majority of Bishop Hill is not going to disappear any time soon. 
Losing the state historic sites would be bad, but Bishop Hill is a unique little place that may well have more museums per capita than Springfield.  The visitors that are returning for another look know that.
And it looks like Bishop Hill is attracting new visitors, while others are encouraged to appreciate our historic treasures one more time.  Judging by the number of cars in town, it’s fair to say that visitation for Bishop Hill as a whole is up—at least for now.  Thank you, Governor, for that much. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

Thank You

I was the fortunate beneficiary of some amazing help during my book launch weekends last September. I can’t get over how lucky I’ve been.

First, Martha Downey, state site superintendent, invited me into the Bishop Hill museum. Whenever I mentioned it I always had a few people in total denial. If not an absolute first for a book launch, then surely a rare event.

Second, one of my BH pals held an open house event and invited me and my book to be a part. The other member of our trio showed up to help out. Pals like that can only be treasured.

Thirdly, the MWC Press held a release party upstairs at Bucktown Center for the Arts in Davenport, Iowa. They provided the space and the basics, but it was my turn to add the embellishments. I brought real Swedish coffee I’d purchased at the BH Colony Store, real cream, wine, and Swedish visiting cake. (A former BH neighbor made the almond-topped cake for me years ago and I was so glad to have finally located the recipe.)

Important note here: I didn’t bring Swedish meatballs. Specifically, I didn’t bring my mother-in-laws Swedish meatballs.

I’ve been promising meatballs for my book launch for some time and fully intended to fulfill my promise. I’d practiced making them … once. Actually, I practiced making the sauce … once.

Instead of making each little meatball by hand, I went looking for frozen Swedish meatballs. Surprisingly difficult as it turned out. I only found them in Fareway’s freezers.

Clearly, I wasn’t applying myself to this task.

When I thought about how to get my homemade meatballs to BH I relented, the logistics where too daunting. I inquired at the PL Johnson’s. PL’s has some excellent meatballs and they were gluten free to boot. But again, the logistics seemed to be more than I could handle.

So, sadly, no meatballs.

I compensated for no physical meatballs by adding an envelope with my mother-in-law’s recipe nicely printed out and a jar of the secret ingredient for the sauce to the items I collected for drawing prizes. Not a secret any longer. It’s instant coffee. About which my brother-in-law has often said, “That’s just plain wrong.”

I say it is chocolate-like and why not add it to a sauce. I’ve had MolĂ© sauce in Mexican restaurants. Close enough.

So, I am beginning my New Year with a brief visit to the best times of last year and offering another THANK YOU to good friends and new readers I’ve met along the way.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Susan Van Kirk Part 2

Monmouth, IL, author Susan Van Kirk was a fortunate find for me both for her mysteries and for her blog.

One of her blog posts from Dec. struck me as especially helpful for readers as well as authors. It was a practical “How To” on writing book reviews for readers who don’t usually write reviews and may have trouble getting started.

Van Kirk began with listing FIVE things for the reader to consider:

PLOT: I looked up “plot” on the web and found it described as “The main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.” Using that definition the reader should think about: the pace of the plot, did it sag anywhere, did it confuse, and was it engaging enough to finish the book?

CONFLICT: Discord between characters is a natural and essential component of all stories, short or novel length. Conflict starts the action and keeps it going. Subplots can show up with their own set of conflicts and tie into the main plot. The reader can ask if the conflicts presented where resolved in a satisfactory fashion.

Keep in mind that books may keep some plot points up in the air as enticements for the next book of a series.

POINT OF VIEW: POV refers to who is telling the story. The reader can ask: was the right person chosen, if the POV come from more than one person was it confusing or not, and did the choice of viewpoint work out.

Viewpoint here would be the author’s choice of how the story is told. Such as: in first person, the “I”; or in third person, the “he, she, it, or they”. Second person, the “you”, is difficult to write and relatively rare.

CHARACTERS: The reader probably formed an opinion about the characters as far as liking them or not, feeling sorry for them or not, maybe taking their side and wanting them to grow and succeed. Did the reader find the characters well rounded and believable? Did backstory information slow down the plot?

SETTING: Did the reader find the setting, real or imaginary, worked well with the story? Did the descriptions bring the setting alive to all the senses? Was there too much description at times?

Van Kirk ends her blog post with these words:

“Just pick a question or two that makes sense with the book you read. The important thing is that you consider writing a review, however brief. Even going to a site and giving a book stars is helpful if you don’t want to write your thoughts. …The writer you save with your review may be the one you like the best.”

Use this link to connect with Van Kirk’s blog post: