This November, Spalding University’s brief-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing program presents two events featuring best-selling authors Molly Peacock and Sena Jeter Naslund. In their most recent books, Peacock and Naslund each examine the life and artistic talent of an eighteen-century female artist. Peacock celebrates mixed-media collagist Mary Delany in The Paper Garden, while Naslund dramatizes the life of portrait painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun in The Fountain of St. James Court; or, the Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman. In a further parallel, each book also explores the creative life of a contemporary mature woman writer. The MFA-sponsored literary readings and presentation will appeal to artists, writers and bibliophiles alike.
Molly Peacock, author of the best-selling biography The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, is set to give a public presentation at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 20, at the Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway. The evening with Peacock is free, ticketless, and open to the public. A book signing follows.
The Paper Garden is both the biography of eighteenth-century artist Mary Delany and a fascinating meditation on late-life creativity. Mary Delany was best known for her innovative floral “paper-mosaicks,” or mixed-media collages—a form she invented at the age of 72. The Paper Garden was chosen by Maclean’s magazine in Canada as one of the top twenty books of 2010. It also reached No. 1 on Maclean’s nonfiction best-seller list. The Economist chose The Paper Garden as a 2011 Book of the Year. The book is also available in audio book from audible.com.
Peacock, MFA poetry and creative nonfiction faculty member, has also published a memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece (Riverhead), and six books of poetry, most recently The Second Blush (W.W. Norton and Company). She is now at work on a fiction project titled Alphabetica: The Stories of the Letters. Her articles have appeared in O the Oprah Magazine, Mirabella, New York Magazine, and House and Garden. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and other leading literary journals. Peacock has been awarded fellowships from the Danforth, Ingram Merrill, and Woodrow Wilson foundations as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Peacock’s appearance is the headline event for Spalding’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, November 16-23. The festival is Kentucky’s largest and most prestigious spring-fall reading series. Past guest authors include Tim O’Brien, Ernest J. Gaines, Yusef Komunyakaa, Pico Iyer, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Naomi Shihab Nye, Bobby Moresco, Heather Raffo, and many others.
Sena Jeter Naslund, acclaimed author of The Fountain of St. James Court; or, the Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, will read with five other members of the MFA faculty at the Celebration of Recently Published Books at 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, November 16, at Spalding’s Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth Street. The event is free, ticketless, and open to the public. A book signing follows.
The Fountain of St. James Court is an inspiring novel-within-a-novel that examines the lives of both a fictional contemporary writer and historic painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, a survivor of the French Revolution who was considered by many to be the primary portraitist of Marie Antoinette. Booklist describes The Fountain of St. James Court as “[A] lively and pointed variation on James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. . . this is an incisive and keenly pleasurable novel about women artists overcoming adversity to creative ‘joyful work’ that celebrates life’s beauty and wonder.”
MFA program director Sena Jeter Naslund’s other novels include Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette (Morrow-HarperCollins, 2006), Four Spirits (Morrow-HarperCollins, 2003; Harper Perennial, 2004), and Ahab’s Wife; Or, the Star-Gazer (Morrow, 1999; Harper Perennial, 2000; Harper Perennial Modern Classics Series, 2008). She is also author of two short story collections. She was the 2005-06 Kentucky Poet Laureate.