When I was in school and I’d read a story in my English textbook, many times there was a photo or an art piece that went along with it. And there’d always be a question at the end of the story that would ask how the art piece and story go together. Some people hated that question.
I loved it.
I’ve always loved the idea of art going together. It makes sense to me, the way they connect. The way one piece of art can inspire another piece of art, or how you can see a story in a painting, or how a story can paint images in your head. I LOVE that. I guess that’s why I find a lot of inspiration in other forms of art. Not only do I enjoy them for what they are (a striking painting, a haunting photo, a song that you can’t get out of your head), but I also enjoy them because of the stories I see in them.
Music? Listen to the lyrics; there’s a story there. Paintings? Full of story, either of the subject or the artist. Photography? Setting. People. Captured moments. It’s kind of like an artist is setting me up for a story, igniting that spark that helps me write. For me, all art is striving to make a connection, with the reader, with the listener, with the viewer. It’s striving to ask you to look inside yourself, or outside yourself, and really wonder and think and feel. And I think you really need to feel to write, so for me the two go hand in hand.
But I also think art can be more than inspiration.
In my books, my characters often turn to art in some way while they’re going through a difficult time. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie finds he can make better sense of the world through the lens of a camera. He is incredibly vulnerable and scared and unable to express himself or deal with his family issues. But in photography, he finds a way to do that. Actually, with Charlie, photography becomes this way of seeing things, exposing things no one else around him wants to see. So, photography also becomes this very powerful and empowering thing for him.
In Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is fascinated by Emily Dickinson’s poems, specifically those about death because she’s is in a dark place in her life. Her high school crush has just committed suicide after an amazing night of adventure with her. Dickinson’s poetry reflects Frenchie’s own feelings, and helps her to come to terms with something that just doesn’t make sense.
I don’t set out to make my characters artsy but they usually end up that way. I think it’s because I also see the arts as something that can save us (I hesitate to use the word save, I really do, because I think ultimately, we choose to save ourselves). But I truly believe music, art, writing, stories can offer us a safe haven and inspiration. A place to hang out for awhile, sometimes as an escape, sometimes as a place to make better sense of whatever it is we are going through. Sometimes it is conscious, and sometimes, not so much. Either way, the arts really can be a sort of salve for anyone who has gone through tough times. I like salve better than save. Add the L.
Overall though, art is pretty amazing in any medium. It asks us to feel. It offers us comfort and understanding. And that can’t be bad.
From the Running Press site: Jenny Torres Sanchez lives in Florida with her husband and children where she currently writes full time. Before her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie she taught high school for several years, where she credits her eclectic students for inspiring her to write young adult novels.
On Thursday, her second novel, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia will be featured on our Libros Latin@s post.
Hooray for students asking for us to write books! That’s how I came to YA, too.
Thank yor for sharing how you included the arts in your writing process. I enjoyed your first book and will certainly read your second one. Congratulations on this book’s publication.
Your book sounds perfect for my 8th grader. She loves music too (and reading).