An important part of supporting yourself as an artist is effectively communicating your work in writing. In this workshop, Nicole Hardy will guide you through the process of Writing Your Artist Statement. You’ll leave the workshop with a working artist statement to use in grant applications, websites, and portfolios. Writing Your Artist Statement will be held this Saturday at the Mr. Baker Lofts in Seattle. Sign up here.
Who are you: I’m a writer who began as a poet, but now writes personal essay and memoir. My current project is a book about the year I spent sailing the world on a square-rigged tall ship with a crew of strangers.
Defining characteristic: If Private Benjamin and the Absentminded Professor had a baby . . .
Role model: If Grace Jones and Grace Kelly had a baby . . .
Proudest accomplishment: Having my first-ever personal essay published on the front page of the Sunday Styles section in The New York Times was a really big one - a moment that told me I was maybe a better nonfiction writer than a poet; and one that forced me, a bit, into a new way of thinking about writing and the silences I’d been fighting against.
Words to live by: Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese is a poem I go back to again and again. I’m generally not a fan of meditative nature poems - but I found this one at a time when I needed to be allowed a different way of living. This one is so profoundly soulful in its rebellion - it continues to speak to me, still.
It would be absurd for me to ask about Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin – what was the primary driving force behind your writing that work?
Bravery, really. I’d been talking to my students about artistic risk, and how the universal is woven into each of our individual experiences. I was challenged to share a “work in progress” at a reading for that year’s Writers in the Schools. I took the challenge, and honestly it was pretty awful to be so vulnerable onstage—it’s so much easier to be funny and practiced and polished; afterward, two other writers took me aside and insisted that what I’d written could be something larger. I decided to take my own advice, let myself believe my story was - in certain ways - universal. That there were ways for readers to see aspects of themselves in a late blooming coming of age story about sex, religion, writing, and identity. Three years later, my memoir was published.
You’ve been a private coach as well as an Artist Trust lead teacher – what were some of greatest experiences in shaping your identity as a business person and what are the needs you see unmet in Seattle’s artist community?
I pressed the reset button on my life 15 years ago, made a living waiting tables and writing poems - it was a move that changed everything, and one that would be nearly impossible for a young writer, now. I’m a writer who figures out how to pay her bills between projects - just like so many other artists, writers, musicians. What I love about this city - and what I see quickly disappearing - is the sense of community I found here as an emerging writer. It helped immeasurably to see other people living the life I wanted, and to be in a city where there are readings every night, where coffee shops and galleries host local writers, where arts organizations offer mentorship and affordable programming, where writers on tour are sure to stop, where there are a dozen indie bookstores, and residencies, and festivals, and where artists can afford to live. A community can’t thrive in a place where it can’t pay rent.
Aaron Jin is the Artist Trust communications intern. He was an Intiman Emerging Artist in 2016 and loves to think about his Facebook statuses. He will join artEquity’s national cohort after attending their facilitator training this fall. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.