Friday, November 13, 2015

French Friday: First Impressionism

In 2010 I had an idea for a book.

A young American girl (Phoebe Cox) and her family are vacationing in France. While viewing artwork at the Musee d'Orsay, she finds herself transported to Paris, circa 1880.  Can the Impressionists help her find her way back to the 21st Century?

That was the gist of my idea. I had nothing else.

So for three years I researched. I explored the Impressionists, their paintings, and the time period. Slowly a story began to emerge.

Rehearsal on Stage would transport Phoebe to the past, and she is convinced another Degas painting is the secret to finding her way back home.

This would form the structure of my novel. Each chapter title would be the name of a famous Impressionist painting, and would some way feature in the storyline. While many of the paintings are by Degas, several are by other master artists of the time: Cassatt, Renoir, Monet, and Caillebotte.

Other characters developed. Mary Cassatt would be a mentor for Phoebe. Mary's father did not agree with her dream to become an artist, much like Phoebe's father does not approve of her interest in music. Mary helps Phoebe understand a parents' point of view while remaining true to self.

Marie van Goethem is a young ballerina who befriends Phoebe. Marie's family life is broken and dysfunctional. She longs to become rich and famous. At times, this desire becomes an obsession, and Phoebe is placed in uncompromising positions.

Jean-Luc is the son of a wealthy Parisian banker. His father is a patron of the ballet and refuses to associate with those beneath his social class. Jean-Luc takes an interest in Phoebe, however, and becomes her trusted friend. (You can't have a story set in Paris without some love interest, can you?)

I wrote the first draft of the novel during NaNoWriMo 2013. I knew how the story began, and I knew how it would end. I was not at all clear about the mushy middle. There is a conflict, but it is not well developed. There is a theme, but it is weak. I have a lot of revision to do.

This past weekend I attended the regional SCBWI writing conference (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). As part of the conference fee, attendees are permitted to submit full manuscripts to the agents and editors in attendance.  One editor was from Scholastic Books and represents Middle Grade fiction. This is an opportunity I can't pass up. The deadline for submission is April 30, 2016.

Obviously I have my work cut out for me. Since I will be immersed in First Impressionism, I thought it might be fun to share bits and pieces of the process here on the blog. French Friday will become a regular feature from now until May (perhaps longer).

I plan to share portions of the story - examples of the art - favorite Parisian spots I have visited. In other words, anything French that strikes my fancy and inspires me to complete this project.

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I will enjoy sharing. And if you have a French Friday topic to contribute, I'd love to hear it!


  1. 2010 must have been a good year for creativity - your germ of an idea for First Impressionism and my Unraveling of Reverend G - both birthed in the same year. Wow!

    1. I didn't know that, Rebecca! That's exciting (and gives me hope...)

  2. It sounds like a wonderful story. I am so excited for you and looking forward to reading more about it.


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