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A Girl Named Queenie

By LC Van Savage

       Remember Anna Mary Robertson? She became Anna Mary Robertson Moses, and eventually, Grandma Moses. Everyone knows of her and her style of painting; primitive, naïve, art brut, self-taught and now called “outsider art,” and it has always has been my most favorite genre.

      But what was especially terrific about that great lady was that after years of hard farm work, raising ten children and painting for fun, she began to paint scenes from memory seriously at age 78. Seventy-eight! Imagine that. And that’s when she was discovered.

      That’s just one year short of when I finally wrote and got my first really and truly serious book into print, and the whole thing has me slightly spinny. Well folks, hope springs eternal and while I doubt the Pulitzers will be calling, or the New York Times or even Hollywood, I still have a book to hold in my hands, and it has my name in big letters on the front. “Thrilling” just simply doesn’t cut it.

       I know lots of you out there have written books, successful books, so you know about the thrill thing. It’s amazing. Just flat out astonishing, right?

       What’s especially meaningful to me, apart from finally completing this novel, is that I did it on the cusp of my 80th birthday. Why did I wait? I have no clue. Laziness? Fear? Probably. But I’m hoping that perhaps there’s some truth to those ancient and boring axioms such as, “all good things come to those who wait” or “some wines turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” Maybe my book is vinegar, but I waited so long to do it I’d like to think the words swirling around in my head that I put on paper pages, have improved with age. And I know that even my hero Grandma Moses had to hear and read negative things about her paintings, and I’ll have to do ditto about this book of mine. It is what it is. I get it, and at nearly 80 I’m allegedly a grown-up, and if this happens, I can take it. Not.

       It’s like a birth, this book launch thing. I’ve given birth to a book baby and I want to hold it out to the world and I want the world to love it and think it is beautiful and important. Will it? I’m so often told by my once-were-flower-child pals that if one just thinks positive thoughts, good things will happen. Seriously? Doesn’t work so well with a kidney stone attack, but whatever. I’m really trying.

      This book, my book, is called “Queenie” and it’s a story of a young girl in the 1950s who learns in the very hardest way to be accepting of all people, even those for whom she’d had nothing but contempt. Given the name “Queenie” well into the book, she suffers humiliations, learns to step away from learned hatreds and overcomes a shattering family scandal. This book was edited cleanly, kindly and intelligently by none other than one Raye Leonard, who beautifully edits The Coastal Journal out of Bath, Maine.

       The book will be at all Maine bookstores quite soon, but as of this minute, it is at the Gulf of Maine, on Maine St., in beautiful downtown Brunswick. And of course, it’ll soon be on Amazon. If I am able to gather up whatever shreds of courage I may have within, I will try for a book signing one day.

       I’d like to ask something of you, on behalf of Grandma Moses and me too ---if you have a book or a painting or an anything brewing inside of you, do it. Bring it to life. Don’t wait the way Grannie Moses and I did. She had about 26 years left and everyone knows how well she did. I am nearly 80 and have no clue how much time I have left to watch this new book baby grow, or even if it will. I wish I’d done it sooner but I also know that spending time wallowing in regrets is stupid and non-productive.

      So folks, no matter what your age, go for it!! Whatever “it” is. It’s wonderful if these creations of ours make tons of money for us, but honestly, the real high is getting it done and out into the world. Trust me! Do it!! You will never regret it. I don’t. Grandma Moses surely didn’t.

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