December 20th, a new book by Author Susan Vreeland, the scheduled speaker for Catawba College’s 19th annual Brady Author’s Symposium next spring, will be available in bookstores. In "Life Studies," a collection of art-related stories, Vreeland continues her own literary trend of examining art and artists.
According to Vreeland, "Life Studies" explores the questions: "What else went on in great artists’ lives besides their painting? And what goes on in ours as a result of art?" Half of the stories examine Impressionists and Post- Impressionists, the author notes, "from the points of view of the people surrounding them, and the other half are contemporary stories of non-artists who encounter art in surprising and meaningful ways."
Vreeland, a retired high school English teacher turned best-selling author, will speak at the annual Brady Author’s Symposium in Catawba College’s Keppel Auditorium at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 16. A seated luncheon follows her lecture that day at noon in Peeler Crystal Lounge. Her visit to campus concludes with a book signing session in the early afternoon in Keppel Auditorium lobby and an exclusive writing question and answer session in Hedrick Theatre.
A graduate of San Diego State University, Vreeland taught for 30 years in the San Diego City Schools. She recently retired, but continues to live in San Diego with her husband, a software engineer. The couple has no children, but loves to ski, take walks, visit museums, and travel.
While teaching, Vreeland wrote features for newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from art and travel to skiing and education. She is the author of a student writing handbook, "What English Teachers Want," currently used in high schools and community colleges throughout the country.
She says she first "ventured into fiction" in 1988 with "What Love Sees," a biographical novel about a woman’s quest to lead a normal life despite her blindness. Although now out of print, the novel was made into a CBS television movie starring Richard Thomas and Annabeth Gish. Her works of short fiction have appeared in The Missouri Review, New England Review, Confrontation, Alaska Quarterly Review, Calyx, Crescent Review, and other journals.
Vreeland was inspired to begin work on her second novel, "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue," (published in 2000) while she was undergoing treatment for lymphoma in the late 1990s. Art books featuring works of the great masters like Monet, Michelangelo, and Johannes Vermeer inspired her during this difficult time, and she says "taught her that art can emerge from extremity."
"The Girl in Hyacinth Blue" posits the existence of an unaccounted for painting by Dutch artist Vermeer and traces its history from past to present, describing each stop it makes on its journey. Simultaneously, during this same time period, Vreeland also worked on "The Forest Lover," (published in 2004) whose subject is the artist Emily Carr.
Following publication of "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue," another art- related novel by Vreeland was published in 2002. "The Passion of Artemisia" follows the life of Italian Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi and details her relationships, challenges and triumphs as she pursues a career as an artist in a male-dominated society.
Vreeland’s awards for her works of fiction are numerous and include the San Diego Book Awards’ Theodore Geisel Award and Best Novel of the Year in 2002 for "The Passion of Artemisia;" Book Sense Year’s Favorites for "The Passion of Artemisia," 2002; International Dublin Literary Award nominee in 2001 for "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue;" and Inkwell Magazine’s Grand Prize for Fiction in 1999.
Vreeland’s novels have garnered high praise from the most discriminating of reviewers. The New York Times Book Review explained "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue" as "intelligent, searching, and unusual…filled with luminous moments…it has a way of lingering in the reader’s mind."
Of "The Passion of Artemisia," a reviewer for The Atlantic Monthly wrote: "Who would have thought a novelized life of a Renaissance painter, a woman, would be so packed with spiritual firmness, sexual politics, Inquisition savagery, and inextinguishable talent for portraiture. A lovely book."
Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of "The Forest Lover," noted: "One of the pleasures of this beguiling novel based on Carr’s life is the way Vreeland herself has acquired a painter’s eye; her descriptions of Carr’s works are faithful, evocations of the artist’s dazzling colors and craft."
Tickets for Catawba’s March 16th Brady Author’s Symposium with Vreeland will be available to the public in February. She will join an impressive group of authors who have spoken at previous Brady Author’s Symposia, including Reynolds Price, Doris Betts, Lee Smith, Kay Gibbons, John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Gail Godwin, Ann Hood, Tim McLaurin, Frances Mayes, and Rick Bragg. For more details, call the Catawba College Public Relations Office at 704-637-4393.