Friday, May 11, 2012

A Story in my Blood

By Kim

In my last post a group of writers, including myself, revealed what compelled them to write their novels. I mentioned growing up with Carl Ahrens’ story, admiration for his work, etc. I’ve since realized that my real answer boils down to one word. Love.

Photo by Rick Taylor
Love for the idea of soul-mates. Love for a grandmother taken before I had the chance to know her. Love for the sound of native drums and the smell of sweet grass. Love for a foreign land that has become my soul’s home. Love for the joyful cobalt blue dabs in most of Carl’s work. Love for a story that is in my blood, a story only I can tell.

It was love that led me to attend a writer’s conference in Austin, TX several years ago in order to pitch a biography called Knight of the Brush. The subject was a certain Canadian painter. Agents listened kindly to my clumsily delivered spiel, some even invited me to send my proposal, but I sensed most lost interest as soon as I mentioned Carl was also my great-grandfather. Put Bullock at the bottom of the slush pile, I imagined them saying to themselves.

An editor told me big publishers would never buy an artist's biography unless his name was Van Gogh or Picasso--something recognizable. She suggested I approach a small university press in Canada, preferably from Carl's hometown.

Kim speaking at the KWAG
Bruised but determined, love led me a build a website featuring Carl's best and brightest work – paintings that disprove his reputation as a ‘dark tree painter.’ The president of the Waterloo Historical Society (Ontario) soon found the site and asked if I’d contribute an article about their native son for the Society’s annual volume.

The “little something” morphed into a 6,000 word cover story.

When I mentioned a desire to come to Canada for the launch, the editors asked if I would “say a few words.” I agreed.

Two months later I gave the keynote address for Carl Ahrens Day at the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery. It was the first time in seventy years that a collection of Ahrens paintings had been exhibited to the public.

Carl and Madonna Ahrens circa 1911
Carl later shared the spotlight with his friend and contemporary Andre Lapine at another gallery. Again, I accepted an invitation to speak. I have two more speaking engagements lined up, tentatively for this fall.

A powerful thing, love.

Powerful enough for me to scrap the biography and tell Carl and Madonna’s story in the way that would bring them to life for everyone else as they always have been for me. The Oak Lovers was born.

Platform may not matter much on a novel’s path to publication, but I will continue to build mine when I can. There’s a story in my blood, and I’m the only one who can tell it.


  1. I love that love is your driving force. I'm a romantic, so for me it's the most unstoppable force in the world. The best kind of fuel. As for platform-building, perhaps yours looks like it's in an open field right now, with only occasional nature-lovers to admire it, but it's like the diamond in Field of Dreams. You're building it, and they will come. I believe! Amen, hallelujah! :-)

    You're doing everything right, and for the right reasons, my friend. Keep it up.

  2. It's so true, Kim. Passion is what drives me back to my keyboard each day. I soak up the music, people and experiences that stir that emotion, then pour it out onto the page so I can start over and do it again. There's no greater high. Love your post!

  3. Vaughn,

    Thank you! Your comments are always so encouraging! Just the sort of thing that's great to hear while neck deep in revisions.


    Thank you so much for stopping by. You are absolutely right - there is no greater high, especially when the muse speaks loud and clear!


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