Light and Dark
The Hollywood tabloids are abuzz this summer with news about first-time novelist Annie Weatherwax 84 SC. Actually, it’s her novel – All We Had (Scribner) – that’s causing the stir, and the fact that film star Katie Holmes has optioned the rights to the story.
Released on August 5, All We Had tells the story of a struggling single mom named Rita, her sarcastic 13-year-old daughter Ruthie and a cast of small-town characters who enter their lives when Rita lands a job at the Fat River diner. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler describes the novel as “smart, unflinchingly honest and brilliantly voiced,” while celebrated novelist Kate Alcott calls it “a remarkable combination of the fierce and the tender.”
Although her writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Times Book Review and The Southern Review, Weatherwax has always considered herself a visual artist who has made a living as a painter and sculptor. But in noting the similarities between writing and making art, she explains, “as a writer, you’re painting a picture in the reader’s mind.”
In addition to fiction, Weatherwax has written extensively about the link between the literary and visual arts. “What is most important to me as an artist and as a writer is authenticity of voice,” she says. “Voice is an intangible but discernible sensibility that threads through and ties together a body of work. It can be loud or quiet, but we always feel it.”
Weatherwax says that the years she spent working as a sculptor definitely helped prepare her as a writer. “In many ways the process of finding a character in a hunk of clay is the same as finding a story on a blank page,” she explains. “You must work a piece from all angles and recognize the dangers of focusing too quickly on details when the structure and form have not yet been fully established.”
If the good-humored artist had to classify her own voice, she’d call it comic realism. “It is a heightened, stylized wryness that often plunges into darkness,” Weatherwax says. “It permeates everything I do. My portraits are realistic, but I use bold cartoonish colors. In my abstract work, frivolous nonsensical shapes become oddly human. And like my visual work, my fiction is bold and colorful with an undercurrent of darkness.”